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1 Kislev

TESHUVAH MOMENT: At least once a day appreciate your ears, two headphones! The sense of hearing is essential in the fulfillment of our daily lives. After some time, move on to other limbs, ex. nose, arms, tongue etc. until we come to rejoice in appreciation of all our limbs. ‘Kol Atzmosai Tomarna,’ ‘All our limbs sing.’


[Excerpted from Ten Steps to Greatness (As Heard From Rabbi Avigdor Miller, Z’tl)]



REMINDER--VOLUNTARY PREPARATION:  As we know, we are required to prepare for Pesach by studying its Halachos 30 days in advance, and according to many Poskim, the same is true for Sukkos and Shavuos. The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 429, Dirshu Note 1) writes that the same is not true for Chanukah--and one is not required to study its Halachos in the preceding month. This means that when in preparation for Chanukah we do delve into the 15 Simanim of Hilchos Chanukah in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 670-684)--we are doing so on a voluntary basis--and hopefully L’Sheim Shomayim! Enjoy!



TODAY!  To put things in their proper perspective, today, Rosh Chodesh, is the fortieth day from Hoshana Rabbah (i.e., the same distance traveled between Rosh Chodesh Elul and Yom Kippur).  It is also a full two months since Rosh Hashana.  To reiterate our point of earlier in the week, it is the time for us to evaluate and re-evaluate our kabalos, goals and accomplishments thus far--and make the great part of the year ahead of us--just that--great!


Hakhel Note: We look forward to a month of great Yeshuos.  Certainly, great Kochos--huge potential--lies within these upcoming days.  Let us remember that (although the war against the Greeks may have ensued for years hence) the battles for which we celebrate Chanukah culminating in the rededication of the Bais HaMikdash were successfully concluded on the 24th/25th of Kislev--just a few short weeks away.  This, then, means that the actual miracle-filled clashes of the physically weak against the bodily strong, of a few brothers against armored battalions, of the piercing Kol Yaakov against the adroit Yedei Esav as portended by this week’s Parasha, took place on our calendar perhaps today and certainly in the days just ahead.  In this week’s Parasha, we learn how powerful our Tefillos really are and can be in extricating ourselves from truly painful and difficult situations. Learning the lessons from the Parasha is such an important goal and accomplishment for us--especially applying them to our times and our situations in life. If we can take the lesson of the incomparable power of Tefillah--and especially infuse them with special pleas for Yeshua during this month--we may be able to bring ourselves over the top.  Yeshua is definitely not an insurmountable task--especially for a generation so befuddled by the admixture of terrorism, technology and turmoil that surrounds us. A very simple place we can begin is with the words “Ki Lishuasecha Kivinu Kol HaYom” (we await Your salvation every day) in Shemone Esrei.  We have often heard that ‘Yeshuas Hashem KeHeref Ayin--the Yeshua of Hashem can come with the blink of an eye’. When reciting the words of Ki Lishuasecha three times daily--perhaps we can raise our Emunah level by closing our eyes and hoping, picturing and feeling the Yeshua coming in that instant.  With so much pointing in that direction at this perplexing point in world history and this special time of year...as we open our awaiting eyes--we may actually realize that the Yeshua really has come!





1.  It is permissible to measure for the sake of a mitzvah. Therefore, when there is a medical need (refuas haguf for these purposes being a mitzvah), one can take his temperature with a (non-digital) thermometer, or take his blood pressure (non-electronically). There is a Machlokes HaPoskim whether one is allowed to weigh food for the sake of a mitzvah (such as Matzah on the Leil Haseder). The Sefer Piskei Teshuvos (3: p.102) rules that one should not measure a revi’is of wine in a measuring cup, although one would be allowed to put milk into a baby bottle even if there are measuring marks on the bottle--because unlike the measurement of the revi’is where no mitzvah per se being done at the time of measurement, feeding the child the proper amount is a mitzvah in and of itself.  For this reason, it would also be permitted to weigh a child after eating with a (non-electronic) scale if one must know if the child is gaining weight, for that knowledge itself is a mitzvah of refuas haguf. However, the Sefer Itturei Halacha (Illustrated Guides To Jewish Law, II, p.122-123) by Rabbi Ze’ev Greenwald, Shlita writes that one may measure a cup to determine whether it contains the requisite revi’is for Kiddush, and if one is filling a baby bottle, he should not fill it to an exact measure, but should instead fill it a little bit more or a little bit less. Accordingly, one should consult with his Rav for a definitive P’sak in his personal circumstances, and on similar and related issues (such as weighing a small challah roll or piece of challah to make sure it is a shiur, or weighing foods for diet purposes).  One should, in any event, avoid using a measuring cup for non-mitzvah purposes.


2.  It is permitted for a Maggid Shiur to prepare for a Shiur he will give on Sunday, for a child to study for a Chumash test he will have on Monday, or for a ba’al kriyah to prepare the laining or Kriyas HaMegillah for the following week--for when it comes to the study of the Torah--you are definitely benefiting immediately --on Shabbos itself---and this is not considered as ‘hachana’-preparing for the following day.


3.  One is not permitted to hit his hand on the table or foot on the floor to a beat, nor to bang a spoon or cup to the beat of the music. See Sefer Piskei Teshuvos 3:p.232, as to whether and how the prohibition to banging a spoon or cup applies to those authorities who are lenient and permit the clapping hands in an ordinary manner on Shabbos, (especially for the sake of a mitzvah such as on Simchas Torah).



EISAV SERVING YAAKOV:  When Rivka inquired of Shem as to just exactly what was happening within her, Shem concluded with the words “VeRav Ya’avod Tzair--the older one will serve the younger one.”  HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl asks when the older one ever did indeed serve the younger one--hasn’t Eisav always been on the ruling end over us? HaRav Lopian brilliantly answers that this is not at all the case.  Eisav has been serving us all along.  A King has different kinds of servants--butlers, chefs, charges d’affaires--and even a Palace doctor.  If we were to act properly, Eisav would take on the more traditional roles in the Palace.  Now, however, because we need to improve--Eisav is acting as the Palace doctor--serving us with r’l sometimes painful treatments.  The time will come, however, when he will serve us in a more common, expected and pleasant way--may it come through our Teshuva Sheleima--speedily and in our days!



SEEING THE SMELL!  In this week’s Parasha, Yitzchok Avinu (Bereishis 27:27) exclaims:  “Re’eih Rei’ach Beni K’Rei’ach Sadeh Asher Bairecho Hashem--see the fragrance of my son (Yaakov) is like the fragrance of a field which Hashem has blessed.”  What does Yitzchok Avinu mean with the phrase ‘see the fragrance’--does one not smell a fragrance?  Rashi teaches that when Yaakov Avinu entered Yitzchok’s presence, he brought with him the Rei’ach of Gan Eden--something which Yitzchok Avinu did not only smell--but saw There is a great lesson for us here.  We are not to look at any situation from the perspective of that which we see with the naked eye.  Rather, a Torah Jew must endeavor to view not the mere physical aspect of the situation--but the spiritual aspect which is truly its essence.  The unnatural state of innocent people being stabbed on the street and shot at from passing cars, of horrific plans to hurt and kill the young and the old--must make us see beyond the news reports, the press office statements, and the venomous lies and hatred of the murderers, and bring us to the realization that we must act like Yitzchok Avinu--getting to the essence, to the Ruchniyus of the matter--and making sure that we internalize it in our thoughts, words and conduct.  As absurd and as desperate as the situation appears--especially when it seems that after one of the rotzchim is killed another pereh adam somehow springs up in his place--we must not only believe but know that each one of our Teshuvah, Tefillah and Torah reactions is ‘seeing the Rei’ach’--and that they really do mean something and really do help.  If each one of us does our part in the eis tzara--we will all together be able to rejoice in the Yeshuas Hashem! 





A.  The Pasuk teaches:  “Vayisrotsetsu HaBanim Bekirba--the boys agitated within her.”  Rivka, as a result, exclaimed--”If this is the case, why am I?”, and she then went to inquire of Shem as to what was really taking place.  HaRav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik, Z’tl, learned a tremendous lesson from these words which he taught should be applied by everyone in their daily life.  Rivka realized that there was something going on that was not right --and she wanted no part of it--even if this meant not having the good out of it either.  Shem essentially advised her that it would not be her choice--for Eisav was necessary for Yaakov’s existence in this world.  However, her original thought--that fostering evil did not pay even if good was fostered along with it--was correct.  Similarly, HaRav Soloveitchik teaches, Chizkiyahu HaMelech did not want to have children because he realized that resha’im of the caliber of Menashe would be among his progeny.  He felt this way--even though the great Tzaddikim Yoshiyahu and Tzidkiyahu would be numbered among his descendants as well.  Thus, even though much good would have come out of his children, it would not have been justified because of the evil that would have also resulted.  Yeshaya HaNavi (as Shem did with Rivka earlier) had to tell Chizkiyahu not to be involved in Hashem’s cheshbonos--and to do his part and have children if he could.  The great daily lesson that HaRav Soloveitchik derives is that any action to be taken, or word to be spoken, which will have some clearly bad or negative ramification or result can and will never be outweighed by the good that will also be produced.  We cannot put both the good and the bad on the scale, and use our best judgment to weigh it--instead, we are duty bound not to perform the act at all--and even though the good will not happen, neither will the evil--and that is your first and overriding duty and obligation.  What a powerful lesson!


B.   Rabbi Moshe Goldberger, Shlita, makes the following great observation:  ”Of all parts of Eisav’s body, why did Yaakov grab hold of Eisav’s heel?  We can suggest that it is to teach us a secret of greatness--hold on to those things that others may be stepping on!”


C.  HaRav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Shlita (whose Zeide--HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl’s, Yahrzeit is today--see below), teaches the importance of the description of Yaakov Avinu in the Torah as a “Yoshev Ohalim--one who dwells in tents” (Bereishis 25:27).  After all, the Torah’s description of Yaakov focuses on his difficulties with Lavan, with Eisav, and with Mitzrayim, his encounters and his travels, and does not appear to spend even one precious word describing his Torah studies.  How could this be so?  In fact, however, Yaakov was the true “dweller of tents” because he took his Torah teachings wherever he went and in every situation that he encountered.  This is why the Torah does not state that he dwelled in a “house”--but in a “tent”--through the many sojourns of Galus.  A tent of Torah is not transient--it is impregnable and unconquerable by Eisav--and that is how it will remain until our final Geulah.



QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS OF HARAV CHAIM KANIEVSKY, SHLITA, ON THE PARASHA:  Several questions on the Parasha, and the answers of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, as published in the Divrei Siach, by Rabbi Yitzchok Goldshtaff, Shlita, and the Sefer Ta’ama D’Kra:


QUESTION: At the outset of the Parasha we learn that Eisav asked Yaakov for the ‘very red stuff’. The Pasuk then records that Yaakov gave him bread. Why did he give him bread if he did not ask for it?

ANSWER: There is a machlokes in the Gemara (Brachos 38B) as to what bracha to make on cooked vegetables. Although the Halacha is that one makes a Borei Pri Ha’adama--Yaakov Avinu did not want to get himself or Eisav involved in a Machlokes--so he gave him bread to avoid the shailah! Hakhel Note: It would appear from here that a person who provides or serves food to others has an obligation to clarify the appropriate bracha before serving the food item.


QUESTION: How could Yitzchok have eaten from the shechitah of Eisav if he was a mumar?

ANSWER: Chazal (Eruvin 69A) teach that if one is embarrassed to do an aveirah in public in front of someone, then he is not a mumar--and here Eisav was embarrassed to do aveiros before Yitzchok.


QUESTION: What do we learn from the Pasuk (Bereishis 46:7), recording that Vayishma Yaakov El Aviv V’El Imo --and Yaakov listened to his father and to his mother, and went to Padan Aram?

ANSWER:  The Torah specifically records that Yaakov listened to his father and to his mother in order to teach us that a person should recognize that when he listens to both of his/her parents--he could actually fulfill two Mitzvos--one of Kibud Av, and a second one of Kibud Aim--as the Torah requires us not to simply listen to our “Horim” (“Respect Your Parents”) --but rather to properly honor each of our parents!  


Hakhel Note One: When one brings a glass of tea to each of his parents, or visits them, or separately quotes them--his Mitzvos abound!


Hakhel Note Two: A benefit in Bentsching, which shouldn’t be minimized, is the opportunity to be mekayaim the mitzvah of Kibud Av V’Aim, in the section where we ask that our parents be blessed!


Hakhel Note Three: The Pele Yoetz (Chapter on Brachos) brings the Midrash that “all of the good and the power that Eisav’s descendants possess come from the importance he attached to his father’s brachos when he cried out bitterly and said ‘Borcheini Gam Ani Avi.’“ Accordingly, the Peleh Yoetz writes, one should go out of his way to receive brachos from his parents because, besides the fact that these brachos are closer to being fulfilled because they come from the heart, one also fulfills the mitzvah of Kibud Av V’aim for which he will be rewarded.  We should treasure and seek these irreplaceable brachos!


QUESTION:  At the end of the Parasha, we learn that Eisav married Yishmael’s daughter--Machalas--and we derive from this name that a Chassan and Kallah are Mochul--forgiven for their past iniquities on the date of their wedding (of course Teshuva must be done).  Why would we learn something so important from a Shidduch which involves the joining of none other than Yishmael and Eisav (of whom we specifically recite in Selichos--Kalei Seir VeChosno)?!

ANSWER: We could not have learned it out from the marriage such as Yitzchok and Rivka because they had no sins to be forgiven--even if they had sinned in some small way, they would have done Teshuvah immediately. Accordingly, we must learn it out from someone who clearly had sins to be forgiven!



ON THE YAHRZEIT OF HARAV AHARON KOTLER: Shabbos, is the 57th Yahrzeit of HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl (R’Aharon B’R Shneuer Zalmen), perhaps best known for his unwavering adherence, resolve and tenacity for what he knew to be right--whether it be the primacy of Chinuch Atzmai, learning undistracted in Lakewood, or properly voting in the elections in Israel. The Satmar Rebbe, Z’tl, who did not agree with HaRav Kotler in some of his opinions, was maspid him with the words: I can testify about him that, like his namesake Aharon HaKohen,--he did not deviate (she’lo shinah) even in the slightest amount (even kekotzo shel yud) from the Torah’s directives”. HaRav Aharon is undisputedly one of the towering figures in rebuilding Jewry in America (and ergo the world) after Churban Europe. We provide below just a sampling of his teachings as a zechus for his beloved neshama--and as a zechus for us all!: 


1.  The Ramban writes in Sha’ar HaGemul that there are three judgments that a person must succeed in. The yearly judgment, the judgment faced upon departure from Olam HaZeh, and a third judgment prior to Techiyas Hameisim.  What is the difference between the second and third judgments?  After all, the person was not alive any more to perform mitzvos or commit aveiros! HaRav Aharon explains that this judgment is most pervasive, because it also takes into account all of the ramifications of a person’s actions  since their demise.  What did you accomplish, what mark did you leave--did you lead others in the Derech Hashem--Torah and Mitzvos--by your sincere action and your exemplary conduct?  If so, all of the actions that succeed you in all future generations of those who learned from you--whether it be children, other relatives, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances or friends (even the impressed person sitting next to you on the bus or plane)--all of this accrues to your merit.  Chas V’Shalom, the opposite is also true.  What we do in our lives is so important--not only for this moment or this year--but for a lifetime, and the generations that succeed them, until the end of days.  Appreciate the true significance, the incredible and everlasting effects, of your daily actions--so that their ramifications benefit you--and the world--literally, to the end of days.


2.  You are an Ish Chesed, a performer of Chesed of the highest caliber.  You come across the cruelest of the cruel--someone, in fact, world renown for his sadism, barbarity, licentiousness, and the sheer indignity he bestows on other human beings--a  shame and disgrace to the human race.  At best, you would have nothing to do with him.  At worse, perhaps you would join forces with those who would do him harm.  Now, let us see Avrohom Avinu’s attitude and approach to the news that the people of Sodom were about to be handily taken care of, once and for all.  Avrohom Avinu’s immediate response was --let us save what we can of these people. No vengeance, no joy, not even personal satisfaction that they and those with them were to be eliminated. Quite to the contrary, HaRav Aharon teaches, Avrohom Avinu--who knew what Yiras Shomayim really was --went to the point of pleading that he twice said “Al Yichar”--Hashem do not be upset with what I am about to ask. Far be it from one with true Yiras Shomayim to anger Hashem--but Avrohom Avinu knew that he must take it to the absolute limit for them. HaRav Aharon concludes that we are taught here how great our obligation is to assist and daven for Hashem’s children, both for the individual and for the K’lal. Aren’t we the descendants of Avrohom Avinu--and don’t those in front of us need our help!


3. A close talmid of HaRav Aharon in Lakewood (now a senior Rav himself) related to us that HaRav Aharon would always emphasize the fact that a person must be a misbonein--one who seriously contemplates his actions.  It is not in vain that the Sefer Mesilas Yesharim, when instructing a person on how to acquire a particular character trait, would often teach that one should be misbonein regarding that trait.  If one was truly misbonein, for instance, about ridding himself of anger, then when an anger-inspiring event would arise he would have been trained to first be misbonein before getting angry.  Serious and sincere reflection, then, is the secret to improving all Middos.


4. The following is described in Bimchitzasam, the two-volume work on gedolim of our generation by Rabbi Shlomo Lorincz, Z’tl:  “HaRav Kotler held that the greatest Chesed that one could do with another was a Chesed Ruchni--spiritual Chesed, whether it be assisting a person to learn, or any other proper spiritual influence.  As Rav Kotler put it, “Torah is life--is there any greater Chesed than giving life to another?!



30 Marcheshvan

A TESHUVAH MOMENT: The following is excerpted from Living Kiddush Hashem, by Rabbi Shraga Freedman: “The essence of tznius is penimiyus -the existence of a world of purpose and meaning that lies beneath the surface, beyond what can be perceived by others. Actions that are shielded from the view of others are actions that are sincere and motivated by pure intentions. Acts of virtue that are done publicly, on the other hand, may be tainted by ulterior motives, by the desire to win the favor or admiration of others. When a person knows that his actions are being observed, there is no way to be certain that he is acting for the proper reasons and not solely to enhance his image. The wisdom of the Torah is a matter of penimiyus; to bring it out into public view is to risk rendering it empty of meaning and cheapened. Material things, in contrast, are external matters, but they can become kadosh when they are combined with the trait of tznius. Imagine a person attending the Siyum HaShas who is filled with inspiration and begins davening and singing with the greatest intensity, along with the rest of the crowd. Suddenly, he looks up at the large screens and sees his own face. The cameras have focused on him, he realizes, and now 90,000 people are watching his every move. At that moment, the intensity of that person’s concentration and devotion simply vanishes. The depth of meaning is lost; it is so much more difficult to have a profound relationship with Hashem when one is being watched by others.  Michah enjoins us, “hatzne’a leches im Elokecha - walk modestly with your G-d.” When we learn Torah and perform mitzvos with tznius, we are building a genuine relationship with Hashem. When we serve Hashem away from the public eye, we demonstrate that we are acting not out of concern for what others will think of us, but rather out of concern for that relationship.”





1. The reason that Avrohom Avinu is referred to in the Torah as Av Hamon Goyim is because he taught the whole world Emunas Hashem. (SA OC 53 Mishna Berurah seif katan 50)


Hakhel Note: To the world around us we can follow suit…in name…and in deed!


2.  The reason Pesukei D’Zimra is referred to by this name is because external forces (kelipos) attempt to stop Tefillah from rising upward, and with Pesukei D’Zimra (Zimra meaning cutting) they are cut down. It follows then, that if one talks during Pesukei D’Zimra he is sent back as a representative of the Jewish people in a time of milchama. How important it is for us not to speak during Pesukei D’Zimra. (SA OC 54 Mishna Berurah seif katan 5, explaining one of the instances of return from milchama described in Devorim 20:8)


3. It is better to allow someone who you feel is not hagun to daven, if a machlokes will result as to who should daven. Moreover, the Chasam Sofer rules that if someone davened when another should have davened instead, the Tefillah will nevertheless be a benefit for the neshama of the person who should have benefited. (SA OC 581 Mishna Berurah seif katan 11, and Chasam Sofer SU’T Chasam Sofer Yoreh Deah 345, both as quoted in SA OC 53, Dirshu Note 72)



OUR ANNUAL WINTER REMINDER: As we enter the winter season (above the Equator), more and more of us will be wearing dark coats and black galoshes and boots, and bringing umbrellas to shuls, simchas and other public places.  The inevitable (well, almost-inevitable) happens:


         My coat is gone and a look-alike with someone else’s name is left in its place!

         Reuven must have taken my boots!

         I took someone else’s umbrella and I won’t be going back to shul until tonight!


HaRav Moshe Feinstein Z’TL (Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 5:9, paragraph 7) provides us with his p’sak in these situations.  His response is beautifully presented by Rabbi Pinchos Bodner, Shlita in The Halachos of Other People’s Money (Feldheim Publishers) page 199:


“If someone found that his coat, hat, rubbers, etc. was mistakenly switched, he is permitted to use the other person’s coat until he can find the owner and switch back.  Although generally one may not use a found item without permission from its owner… when items are switched, it is customary for people not to mind if the other person uses theirs [unless there is reason to believe that the owner would object].  However, if it turns out that the other person did not switch with him, he must ask the owner if he wishes to be compensated for the use of his coat.


Any institution that has a coatroom with a lot of traffic where coats are occasionally switched should, preferably, institute a switched coat policy.  The policy should state that anyone who leaves his coat or other article there, is doing so on condition that if it is switched, each party explicitly agrees in advance to give the other party permission to use the other person’s item.  This policy should be posted on the bulletin board or in the coatroom for all to see.”


We ask that you discuss with your Rav, gabbai, executive director, etc. the possibility of instituting such a policy.  You may save people walking home without a coat, hat, galoshes or the like in the winter weather.  You will certainly feel your own inner warmth in accomplishing this very special Bein Adam L’Chaveiro!


For further reference in this area, see Aruch HaShulchan, Choshen Mishpat 136:2); and the following contemporary Shailos u’Teshuvos:  Shevet HaLevi 6:238, and Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:818.



RULINGS ON SHIDDUCHIM:  Since last week’s Parasha is the source of Shidduchim in the Torah, we present below the rulings and advice of HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relating to this crucial topic, as found in the Sefer Derech Sicha (I, p.110-121). Of course, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek in any particular situation:


1.  A Shadchan’s job is not over after (s)he has made a match. The Shadchan should continue to daven for the couple (if they are young enough) to have progeny--for once you start the Mitzvah...! 


2.  Even though Shidduchim are “min HaShamayim” one should take concern for older singles--because even though the Shidduch is from Heaven--when they will become engaged is not--and this requires hishtadlus.


3.  Yes, even every proposed Shidduch is a step closer to the right one.  Hakhel Note:  In the Parasha, we find that Eliezer thanked Hashem after he met Rivka--even before his receiving the final agreement of Rivka’s family, and returning to Eretz Yisrael.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein; Z’tl, teaches that we see from here that one must thank Hashem for every step along the way as well!  


4.  Once a Shidduch has been attempted and turned down, one has fulfilled his hishtadlus as to that Shidduch, and does not pursue it further.


5.  One should pay a Shadchan, even if he is a relative. The relative can return the money if he wants to--but should first take it.


6.  A Bas Talmid Chochom has two ma’alos--the zechus of Torah, and the chinuch that she saw in her home!


7.  Eliezer did not mention anything about the Akeida or about Yitzchak’s righteousness to Besuel and Lavan because this is not what they would appreciate.  One must know who he is talking to when discussing a shidduch.


8.  If one asks an Adam Gadol what to do--he should listen to his advice-and not excuse himself from listening for this reason or that reason.


9.  Tefillah helps for everything--even if a person’s zivug was destined to be an am ha’aretz based upon his current conduct, a girl’s tefillah to marry a talmid chochom with yiras shomayim could turn all of that around!





1.  We find that Yitzchok Avinu finally digs a well which the Plishtim do not dispute--and so he calls the place Rechovos--Ki Atta Hirchiv Hashem Lanu--for now Hashem has granted us ample space.... (Bereishis 26:22).  Yet, in the very next Pasuk we learn VaYa’al Misham Be’er Sheva--and Yitzchok went up from there to Be’er Sheva!  Why did Yitzchok Avinu seemingly immediately leave--if he had just found and founded an indisputable place for his family to dwell?


2.  There is a custom in some Shuls to sell one of the Aliyos in this week’s Parasha--which one and why?


3.  At the end of the Parasha, we learn that Eisav married Yishmael’s daughter--Machalas--and we derive from this name that a Chassan and Kallah are Mochul--forgiven for their past iniquities on the date of their wedding (of course Teshuva must be done).  Why would we learn something so important from a Shidduch which involves the joining of none other than Yishmael and Eisav (of whom we specifically recite in Selichos--Kalei Seir VeChosno)?!



29 Marcheshvan

KISLEV: By the following audio link, we provide Rabbi Eliya Brudny, Shlita’s recent Va’ad on Kislev:





TESHUVAH MOMENT: Today is Yom Kippur Koton, and tomorrow, Rosh Chodesh Kislev will mark two months since Rosh Hashana. Yom Kippur Koton is a special time for Teshuvah. May we recommend reviewing the Ahl Cheits today. An effective way to do so may be in the back of the Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor (also published by Artscroll as a separate pamphlet on Vidui). Teshuvah--the time is now!



REMEMBERING THE MUMBAI KEDOSHIM: As may be known to you, today is the eleventh Yahrzeit of the Mumbai Kedoshim. We provide their names below, and ask that whatever you do for them as Karbanos on behalf of K’lal Yisrael-whether it is Tehillim, Mishnayos, Tzedaka, etc., please do it separately for each one--as each one had his/her own precious neshama. The names are R’ Gavriel B’R’ Nachman (the Shaliach), Rivka Bas R’Shimon (his Rebbitzen), R’Aryeh Leibush B’R’ Nachum, R’ Ben Zion B’R’ Chaim Zvi, Yocheved Bas R’ Yaakov and Norma (Nechama) Bas Avrohom. May Hashem Avenge their Blood--and may we see the fulfillment of the words of Devorim 32:43 speedily and in our day!


Hakhel Note: At a Hakhel gathering at that time in memory of the Mumbai Kedoshim, HaRav Shmuel Dishon, Shlita, pointed out that the kedoshim were killed in the week of Parashas Toldos.  The Parasha, in one Pasuk, remarkably teaches us both the proper and improper reaction to the tragedy.  The Pasuk states “VaYazed Yaakov Nazid--and Yaakov prepared a stew,” and Eisav came in from the field and he was exhausted (Bereishis 25:29).  Chazal teach that Avrohom Avinu, the Gadol HaDor, was just taken from this world, and, in the aftermath of his passing, Yaakov Avinu prepared a Seudas Havra’ah to comfort and to give chizuk for his father Yitzchak, understanding that Avrohom’s Petira was HaKadosh Baruch Hu’s will, and that it would be up to those remaining to carry on what Avrohom Avinu represented and stood for.  Eisav, on the other hand, was exhausted from the gross aveiros that he committed upon hearing of Avrohom’s passing, responding to the tragedy with despair and dejection.  This is a great lesson to all of us in these last years of exile.  Our reaction to the tragic events that occur in Galus prior to our ultimate Yeshuah should not, c’v be of a weakening in Emunah, a “there’s nothing you can do” attitude, a ye’ush, a disregard of what happened as if it were not a message from Hashem.  Rather, our conduct should be like that of Yaakov Avinu, strengthening our Emunah and embracing and strengthening the sacred trust that we have in these turbulent times.



EXCERPT OF THE DAY:Aimless surfing, compulsive news checking, and excessive preoccupation with email and messaging are some examples of “digital pull” with which we are familiar. The direct outcome of this is that all of the quality activities in which we need and want to engage must compete against the powerful influence of “digital pull.”


The negative consequences of “digital pull” are experienced in two ways. Digital pursuits of little or no value rob us of time better spent learning, in pursuit of parnassah, engaging with family, and a host of other worthwhile pursuits. Additionally, even while engaged in truly valuable activities we often succumb to the commands/enticements borne to us through pings and vibrations.” [Excerpted from The Evolving Digital Challenge by Rabbi Nechemiah Gottlieb, Shlita].



THE ROAD TO CHANUKAH:  As we are about to reach Rosh Chodesh Kislev on Thursday and Friday--we quickly realize that we are CLOSER TO CHANUKAH than we are to the Yomim Tovim of Tishrei!  We must accordingly strengthen ourselves in our Teshuva B’Chol Yom as the year moves on to its next phase.  It is our special duty to be vigilant not only in the words that we speak but in the words that we hear. When we hear certain catch phrases--we must know how to react and stymie the Lashon Hara that is about to come:  “This is how my Rebbe talks....;  She always....;  He has this...;  That kid gets me so angry....;  Listen to this (with facial expression)...;  I don’t want to say Lashon Hara....    With a bit of prevention--we can save ourselves--and our family member, friend or acquaintance from serious sin--as a few words here and a few words there can literally make the difference in a person’s success in this world.  The Chofetz Chaim says it beautifully:  “If we are enjoined by the Torah to help our friends in monetary matters--which are relative only to this fleeting and transitory world--all the more so (‘Kamma VeChamma Kiflei Kiflaim’)  should we extend our goodness to their souls which will last for eternity!”  When we protect ourselves from Lashon Hara--we are gaining access for ourselves--and our friend--to everlasting life.  What a beautiful Avodah--an excellent Teshuva B’chol Yom example--to work on with sincerity and drive--as we take our right step forward ...to Chanukah!


Hakhel Note: The following important points in the Teshuvah process are excerpted from The Power of Teshuvah An Effective Day-by-Day Guide, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita (p. 142):


-Acknowledge that you are solely responsible for the choices in your life.

-Realize that you cannot blame others for the choices that you have made.

-Refuse to indulge in self-pity, but rather, take charge of your life and give it direction and reason.

-Internalize that Hashem equips each person to perfection. If He did not equip you with a certain asset or trait, then that trait cannot help you achieve your potential!



TEFILLAS HADERECH: We learn of Eliezer’s trip to and from Aram Naharayim. We most certainly assume that he would have recited Tefillas HaDerech both to and from, notwithstanding that he was a Shaliach Mitzvah. We provide the following reminders relating to Tefillas HaDerech, as excerpted from the Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 110). As always, one should consult with his own Rav or Posek regarding a final p’sak in his particular facts or circumstances:


A.  The Mishna Berurah (seif katan 19) brings that although Tefillas HaDerech is expressed mostly Belashon Rabbim--in the plural, the words ‘Us’naini lechain’ should remain in the singular (it is not a mistake in the Siddurim)!.  The Magein Avrohom explains that the reason we use the plural is because “it is not possible that there is not a traveler somewhere else in the world at the same time whom you can pray for as well and which thereby causes your Tefillah to be more accepted--and the reason for the unique switch to the singular for one word is al pi sod.”


B.  It is possible that one can be yotzei Tefillas HaDerech on a bus through a microphone?  Although the Minchas Yitzchak and HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl do not allow it, it is brought in the name of the Chazon Ish and Igros Moshe that one perhaps could be yotzei. Accordingly, one must consult with his Rav.  Additional Note:  Even if one can be yotzei in this way, many Poskim (including HaRav Shmuel Vozner, Z’tl, and yblch’t HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita hold that because Tefillas HaDerech is a  Bakashas Rachamim--a request for mercy--it should preferably be recited by each individual separately.  Additionally, if one is going to be yotzei with someone else, HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that it should be someone who is still obligated to recite the Tefillah--and not someone who was already yotzei and is just reciting it for you.


C.  If one began reciting Tefillas HaDerech by heart and realizes that he does not remember the exact Nusach--HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that if he mentions in his Tefillah a request for: “Hatzlachaso Vehatzalaso Mipegah Ra” --then he can conclude the bracha, even if he did not recite the remainder of the Nusach correctly.


D.  The Mishna Berurah (seif katan 20) rules that one must take his Tallis and Tefillin with him whenever he is Yotzei Laderech--even if the place he is traveling to is close and he intends to return the same day.  [HaRav Kanievsky learns that this does not include a trip within a city--but it otherwise includes short trips.]  The Mishna Berurah strongly writes that one who does not follow his ruling has an “Avon Gadol” on his hands--as he may very well end up having to wear someone else’s Tefillin which don’t fit properly or daven after the zeman.


E.  For trips on a boat which are longer than one day, one should consult with his Rav as to the recitation of Tefillas HaDerech every day--although in other circumstances Tefillas HaDerech is generally required every morning of a journey.



28 Marcheshvan

SHATNEZ ALERT:  Hakhel has received a notice from the Vaad L’Mishmeres Shatnez.

Some consumers are wearing Shatnez due to fraudulent labeling.

A Shatnez woolen coat produced under the Baggio brand has a fraudulent label noting there is no linen inside.  Consequently, the consumer was misled and wore the coat without testing it for Shatnez.  Subsequently, a Shatnez laboratory discovered strips of linen fabric sewn inside.  This is not the first occasion when consumers have been misled to wear Baggio brand garments that were Shatnez.  The obvious lesson for consumers is to bring all woolen garments to a qualified shatnez laboratory for testing; regardless to what a content label states or what a salesperson claims.


For a copy of the actual Shatnez notice, containing photos of the coat and the fraudulent label, please see the following link --



For further information, please contact the Vaad at 877-4-SHATNEZ


VOLUNTARY PREPARATION:  As we know, we are required to prepare for Pesach by studying its Halachos 30 days in advance, and according to many Poskim, the same is true for Sukkos and Shavuos. The Dirshu Edition of the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 429, Dirshu Note 1) writes that the same is not true for Chanukah--and one is not required to study its Halachos in the preceding month. This means that when in preparation for Chanukah we do delve into the 15 Simanim of Hilchos Chanukah in Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 670-684)--we are doing so on a voluntary basis--and hopefully L’Sheim Shomayim! Enjoy!



A TESHUVAH MOMENT: In honor of the Yahrzeit of Rabbeinu Yonah (see below), we provide the following teaching from the Sefer Sha’arei Teshuvah (3:121): The Rabbeinu Yonah provides the following list of those who are chayav the more severe form of Kares, i.e., those who are cut off from both this world and the World to Come: “One who worships idols, one who sins in public, one who shames the Torah-such as one who shames those who learn it, and those who love Hashem, and one who destroys his circumcision.”


Hakhel Note: It is stunning to note that one who shames those who learn Torah is placed in the category of one who is excised from both this world and the World to Come—and that he is placed into exactly the same category as one who worships idols. Indeed, even those who are guilty of the Arayos are cut off from this world, but not necessarily from the next (see Sha’arei Teshuvah 3:120). We must pay special attention and take extra-special care to not shame or disgrace one who studies Torah—and quite to the contrary to show a special love and respect to those who do!



YAHRZEIT OF RABBEINU YONAH: As today is the Yahrzeit of the Rabbeinu Yonah (Rabbeinu Yonah B’ R; Avrohom of Gorona), we provide just a few of his many and monumental teachings:


1. Chazal (Erchin 15B) teach “Kol Hamisaper Lashon Hara Ke’ilu Kofer BaIkar”, as the Pasuk says: “Asher Amru…Mi Adon Lanu--with our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?” (Tehillim 12:5).


2. Chazal teach that one who relates a p’gam Mishpacha--Ein Lo Kapparah Olamis, can never be forgiven.


3. Although the Torah usually protects in time of danger, it will not protect one who is a ba’al Lashon Hara, and, in fact, such a person is not worthy of studying Torah. When Chazal teach that an aveirah does not extinguish the Torah that one has learned--it only refers to an aveirah that happened in a sporadic way, and not to one who is not careful with his tongue as a matter of course.


4. Chazal teach: “Knesses Yisrael B’Kolah Ahuvah U’V’Kolah Senuah--through its voice K’lal Yisrael is beloved, and through its voice it is despised”. We know the voice of Lashon Hara that is despised--what is the voice that is loved? It is the voice that speaks Divrei Torah, Chochma, Mussar, peace among people, the view of people in a positive light, praising goodness, deprecating evil and defending the truth. With this, one can achieve his potential in life.


5.The Rabbeinu Yonah (Igeres HaTeshuvah 111) writes that one who does not properly guard his eyes actually injures his Yetzer Hatov, and his personal being, in an irreparable way (see Sanhedrin 92A). On the contrary, one who practices Shemiras Ha’Einayim will merit, Midda K’negged Midda, to gaze upon the Noam Hashem. Indeed, Chazal teach: “Kol Hakoveish Einav Min Ha’arayos Zoche U’Mekabel Penei Hashechina.” The basis for this potent teaching is none other than the words of the Navi himself (Yeshaya 33:15,17) with the words: “V’Otzem Einav Meri’os Berah…Melech B’yafyo Techezenah Einecha--[when one] shuts his eyes from seeing evil…his eyes will behold the King in His splendor!”


Hakhel Note: Shemiras Ha’Einayim is not only a summer exercise--we can be a great source of nachas to Hashem and ourselves in the winter as well!



AT LEAST AS GOOD AS THE GUESTS! We know that Avrohom Avinu, after feeding his guests, would urge them to recognize where the food came from--resulting in a Bracha to Hashem.  Each and every one of us should be no worse than Avrohom Avinu’s guests!  Before making a Bracha over a food item, let us think for a brief moment (just as Avrohom Avinu urged his guests to) that this food is from Hashem and that it is a great kindness for Hashem to give it to me.  Then, begin with a much more meaningful “Boruch…!”





A. The Torah (Bereishis 24:17) relates that when Eliezer saw Rivka, he ran to greet her. The Torah has already taught us the importance of running to do Chesed, as it described in last week’s Parasha how Avrohom Avinu ran to the Malochim and hurried to take care of their needs. What is the Torah adding here by saying that Eliezer ran? We provide at least two suggestions:


1.  When it comes to redting a shidduch--do not wait until ‘tomorrow’ or ‘early next week’, or ‘until I finish with this or that’.  Instead, one should recognize that being involved in a shidduch is a multiple chesed--to the potential Chasan, the potential Kallah, and each of their respective immediate families. If one is in doubt--picture Eliezer--who could have said: “I made it here so quickly, let me rest for a while”, or “let me not rush into anything”--but instead wasted no time and ran to take care of it.


2. As we know, Eliezer desperately wanted Yitzchok for his own daughter. Although Avrohom Avinu had already advised him that he could not accept such a shidduch--Eliezer could have continued to dream of it very much. After all--there must have still been some possibility--and nothing short of eternity was at stake! Nevertheless, Eliezer, as a true student of Avrohom Avinu recognized that he must quash his own personal wants and desires for what was truly proper, for what was truly correct. His running to do the Mitzvah demonstrated how powerfully he had overcome his personal interests to do the will of Avrohom Avinu…and ultimately of Avinu SheBashomayim. If Eliezer, as a descendant of Chom could do so…how much more so we, as descendants of Avrohom Avinu can do so as well. VaYaratz--each and every one of us can do it!


B. When Eliezer asked Rivka if she could give him a drink, she first responded “Shesei Adoni (Bereishis 24:18), and only afterwards did she lower the jug into her hand and give him to drink. Let us reflect for a moment--How could he drink--if the pitcher was still on her shoulder?! We may suggest that the Torah is teaching us a great lesson in helping another in need. The immediate step is to say: “I am helping you.” Any extra moment of doubt, of uncertainty, of desperation, may cause the one in need unnecessary stress or pain--since he will not know for certain that you are helping him. Chazal (Ta’anis 21A) record this in stark terms in bringing the ma’aseh of Nochum Ish Gamzu, who told the poor person to “wait until I unload the donkey”--but the poor person was unable to wait any longer, and expired. Nochum Ish Gamzu then accepted upon himself suffering as an atonement for what had occurred. Let us take the lesson! When approached by one in need--especially when one knows that he can and will help at least in some way--remember the two words of Rivka--”Shesei Adoni”--I am helping you! For Rivka, this resulted not only in the great Chesed to herself of marrying Yitzchok--but in the building of all of K’lal Yisrael! Similar results are available…for all of her descendants as well!


C. “And Lavan and Besuel answered ‘From Hashem has the matter come’” (Bereishis 24:50).  Astounding.  This simple and straightforward statement, perhaps something we (hopefully) recite constantly to ourselves, or perhaps to our close relatives or friends, is openly affirmed by none other than Lavan and Besuel!  Yes, by Lavan and Besuel, those money-grubbers of great note, the renowned world-class idol worshippers.  Yes, it was they whose first reaction to Eliezer’s request for Rivka to become Yitzchok’s wife was “This is from Hashem.”  We must ask ourselves--How could this be?  What had changed within them in the few brief moments of their encounter with Eliezer?  If we look at Eliezer’s words to them we may glean a better insight.  In his brief discourse, no less than five times does Eliezer specifically refer to Hashem as his hope and trust, as the source of all of life and life’s events, as the Master of all.  He is not intimidated by his company, feels no need to “make nice”, does not “talk their language”.  Rather, he sincerely expresses his belief, openly declares his faith, and unabashedly avers that our lives and everything about them are in G-d’s hands.  His genuine sincerity not only strengthened his faith, but made an incredible impact on even the crème de la crème of the wicked.


There is a great lesson to be learned here.  We must be upstanding and resolute in declaring that we are, absolutely and unwaveringly, openly and expressly, dedicated to our beliefs.  In order to develop this pure, dedicated, wholesome resoluteness within us, it may be a good idea to express some of the Thirteen Principles of Ani Ma’amin from time to time to those around you without fear or shame.  It is truly surprising how often these values can come up in, or be added to, the course of a regular or everyday conversation.


If Eliezer could have this effect on Lavan and Besuel--Oh, what we can accomplish!


D. Last week, we had posed the question as to why the Torah had to teach us by Eliezer bowing down that we are to give thanks to Hashem over good news. After all, did we not already learn this lesson from Avrohom Avinu at the outset of Parashas Lech Lecha?  We may possibly suggest that Avrohom Avinu was expressing great thanks to Hashem for the goodness that He had given him and his descendants.  Eliezer’s expression of thanks was, however, very different.  He was thanking Hashem for a Besorah Tova for the benefit of another, from which he did not benefit at all.  Indeed, quite to the contrary, because Yitzchak had a wife, Avrohom could have future generations, which meant that Avrohom’s great wealth would not be bequeathed to Eliezer.  Moreover, the fact that Rivka was to become Yitzchak’s wife with certainty now destroyed any hope that Eliezer had for Yitzchak to marry his daughter.  Nevertheless, and despite all of this, Eliezer thanked Hashem for the Besorah Tova--for the good news to another.  Certainly, then, in situations where we hear of the Simcha or good news of a friend we should remember the lesson of Eliezer--and express thanks to Hashem for the good news of another, very much as if it was one’s own!  





A. We learn that Yitzchok Avinu was consoled after the passing of his mother (Bereishis 24:16).  In fact, the Rambam brings the mitzvah of performing Chesed, which is based upon “V’Ahavta Lereacha Komocha,” in Hilchos Aveil, the Laws of Mourning (14:1).  When one properly comforts a mourner, he is doing a Chesed to both the living, and the departed (ibid., 14:7).  As great as providing comfort may be, finding the right words to say may be even more difficult.  The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 376:2) importantly tells us what one should not say. “Do not say, however, ‘What can one do, one cannot change what happened,’ for that is not consolation but blasphemy.”  The Aruch HaShulchan (ibid., at paragraph 5 ) explains that making such a statement implies that you must resign yourself to what happened against your will, rather than comforting the mourner with words of faith, with words that Hashem loves us all and that only He, in His infinite wisdom knows what is best.  HaRav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch, Z’TL, echoes this thought and adds that it “is the murmuring of the helpless against his helplessness, not the recognition of the blessed wisdom of G-d” (Horeb page 433, cited in Love Your Neighbor, page 93). HaRav Feivel Cohen, Shlita, in Badei HaShulchan on Hilchos Aveilus (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 376:2, seif 27) extends this thought and writes that it is prohibited to make any kind of statement such as “What can one do?” to anyone who is in any kind of difficult situation, in any Tzara, whatsoever.  Obviously, one can daven, learn Torah, do mitzvos and especially Chesed, as a zechus for oneself or others--but one should never c’v, question Hashem’s Supreme Judgment.


B. The Chofetz Chaim in the Sefer Ahavas Chesed (2:15) brings the words of the Shelah HaKadosh-one who gives tzedaka for the soul of a departed one-even if he is unrelated (provided that the deceased is not a rasha) has certainly accomplished a “hatzola gedola”, a great salvation, and nachas ruach to the neshama.  He continues that if a person has departed this world without descendants, then one should attempt to provide for him with a “mitzvah hakavuah ledoros”, a lasting mitzvah, for his neshamah.  If one cannot do this, one should at least buy a sefer needed by the tzibur (such as one’s shul) and write the deceased’s name in the sefer-and EVERY TIME one learns from the sefer-it brings nachas ruach to the niftar.


By doing Chesed for a departed soul, we perform an ultimate chesed-because we do mitzvos for him in this world-the world of mitzvah performance-which he is unable to perform.


As Naomi said about Boaz “Blessed is he to Hashem, he has not failed to perform chesed to the living and to the deceased (Megilas Rus 2:20).”


It is important to note that the Rambam brings the Halachos of Chesed, which are all derived from the mitzvah of V’Ahavta L’reiacha Kamocha, in Hilchos Avail (the Laws of Mourning), Chapter 14.  Perhaps this is because the most Chesed, both quantitatively and qualitatively, can be performed for and on behalf of, the departed.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  Think of someone, who need not be a relative, who perished in the Holocaust, or in Eretz Yisrael in a terrorist bombing or in war, and learn a Mishnah, give tzedakah, or buy a sefer needed by your shul on his or her behalf [perhaps on a periodic basis].



27 Marcheshvan

A TESHUVA MOMENT: Yeshayahu HaNavi (1:27) reveals to us:  “Tzion BaMishpat Tipadeh VeShaveha B’Tzedakah--we will be redeemed through justice and through Tzedakah.” We are all familiar with the importance of giving Tzedakah for the sake of Geulah. But how does the first part of the Pasuk relating to ‘judging’ apply to us on a daily basis as well? Every day, we are engaged in the process of judging other people. Let us be sure at the outset to judge them favorably. Imagine the Moshiach telling you that you fulfilled your part--in both parts of the Pasuk!  



REMINDER! As we are within thirty days of Chanukah, is there a Kabbalah that you are working on until Chanukah?


Hakhel Note: Possible suggestions are Mincha with greater Kavannah, or Cheshbon HaNefesh at the end of the day on kind deeds (as we had referenced last week)….


RAISIN PASTE: In today’s times, there are those who are careful not to consume raisins, due to infestation issues. It is well-known that the OU and other Hashgacha agencies do certify raisins. One should be aware that products may contain raisin paste (not puree), and that those who do not consume raisins may not want to consume these products as well, or look into them further. Just as an example, we cite A-1 Steak Sauce and KIND bar flavors. As always, it is important to review ingredient panels on today’s complex products—not only to determine if there is a bracha question, but also to review the product’s contents!



IMPORTANT REMINDER! YOUR FIRST BRACHA IN THE MORNING: For most, the first bracha they will recite in the morning, is the bracha of Ahl Netilas Yadayim. The Sha’ar HaKavanos writes that there are thirteen words in this bracha, corresponding to the thirteen Middos of Rachamim from Hashem. Have this in mind…a tefillah for Hashem’s mercy…as you start your day!



PESUKEI BITACHON: Bitachon is the mainstay of our existence. We accordingly once again provide by the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/PesukimBitachon.pdf Pesukei Bitachon for one to review, which have been excerpted from the Sefer Hamevorach Yisborach. A person will typically find one or more Pesukim which especially move him based upon his Techunas Henefesh, and his past experience. One should definitely keep a Pasuk of Bitachon close to him for reiteration in the Ikvasa D’Meshicha.



QUOTE OF THE DAY:  “Tzarich Ha’oseik BaTorah Sheyilmod Mikol Adam--one who is [truly] involved in Torah must learn from everyone…”. (Sefer Tomer Devorah, by HaRav Moshe Cordovero, Z’tl, Chapter 8)



EXTREMELY MEANINGFUL MESSAGE: “There is no lifestyle that is as beautiful, fulfilling and joyful as a Torah lifestyle. It is our responsibility to convey this truth to others by the way we conduct ourselves. To give the impression that because we are Torah observant we are deprived in some way is a disgrace to Hashem’s Name and is the height of ingratitude. Conversely, when an observant Jew radiates genuine happiness with his lot in life, this brings glory to Hashem and His Torah.” (Excerpted from Let There Be Rain: A Lesson a Day on Making Gratitude a Part of Our Lives, by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman and Rabbi Zechariah Wallerstein)



A SERIOUS MATTER:  When one relates Lashon Hara, and another listens to it, believes it, and passes it on further, the Chofetz Chaim writes that the person who originally related the Lashon Hara will also be held responsible for the consequences of his actions--his causing the second person to believe and the third, fourth, fifth, sixth… person for believing and passing on the Lashon Hara as well.  Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, relates that Rav Pam, Z’tl, would say over from Reb Levi Yitzchak M’Berditchev:  “Lo Nivrah Peh Elah Lilmod Torah V’Lilmod Zechus Ahl K’lal Yisrael…the mouth was created only to learn Torah and to speak of the merits of K’lal Yisrael!”


Hakhel Note One: Rabbi Reisman surmised that using our mouths in Tefillah was included in seeking the merits of K’lal Yisrael! 


Hakhel Note Two: We provide by the following link a summary review of the seven prerequisites that are necessary in order to relate what would otherwise be considered Lashon Hara http://tinyurl.com/3n7kbk2  You can print it out, cut it into the size of a card, and leave it in your wallet.  On the other side, you can put the following notation:  “Any questions--call the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras HaLashon Shailah Hotline. The Shailah Hotline’s number is 718-951-3696 and the hours are 9:00 PM-10:30 PM from Sunday through Thursday and Motza’ei Shabbos.


Hakhel Note Three: See additional thoughts in the note that immediately follows.



FROM SARA IMEINU:  The following thought is adapted from Growth Through Torah, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita (Page 52-53).


“And the life of Sara was one hundred years, and twenty years, and seven years.  These were the years of the life of Sara.” (Bereishis 23:1)


Rashi comments that, by the Torah segregating the years of Sara’s life, it teaches us that she enjoyed every year of her life.  Yet, the previous parashios seem to depict how much she had suffered in her life.  For many years she was childless; she experienced severe famine; she was exiled across the Middle East and even within Eretz Canaan; she was taken captive by Paroh and later by Avimelech; and she was even looked down upon by her very own maidservant.  Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli, Z’TL, explains that the Torah is teaching us a great lesson.  Because Sara knew that all of her personal life’s events were for her benefit, she was able to evaluate each one in a positive light.


The Torah ideal is to be aware that the purpose of life is to perfect your character, and every life situation is an opportunity for growth.  Sara mastered this level of awareness.  Therefore, at the end of her life, which was constantly devoted to growth, it could be said about her that all her years were good.  This lesson is most important for us to internalize.  See the growth possible in every life event.  In each difficult situation ask yourself, “How can I become a better person because of what happened?”



TO LOVE AND TO APPRECIATE:  In last week’s Parasha we find an extraordinary dialogue between Avrohom Avinu and Efron.  Rashi (Bereishis 23:10) explains that this Efron had been a commoner, but suddenly took on importance because Avrohom Avinu, the “Nesi Elokim”--the recognized Prince of Hashem --needed to deal with him.  Rather than show his appreciation to Avrohom from raising him from a no-name to prominence, Efron asks for a huge sum of money--‘What is 400 shekel between me and you in exchange for the Meoras HaMachpeila?’  Rashi (ibid., 15) in explaining the extra words between me and you writes “between two people so beloved (‘ahuvim’) to each other such as us, what is 400 shekalim....”  Beloved?  Ahuvim?  What?  Avrohom Avinu had nothing to do with this low and unscrupulous, perhaps despicable, person just a few moments ago--and would probably have nothing to do again with him for the rest of his life! What is the belovedness, the affection between them to which Efron is referring?!  We may suggest that these words shed great light on the quality of the Chesed of Avrohom Avinu, which we, as his descendants must most certainly endeavor to emulate.  When Avrohom simply spoke to another person, the love, the feeling, the caring was evident and tangible.  The next person was not a ‘chesed case’; or someone on behalf of whom Avrohom Avinu had just performed a unilateral chesed (imagine how Efron’s life, and perhaps his children’s and descendants lives were now so fully turned around for good).  Rather, the next person was  someone who Avrohom Avinu loved and appreciated--to the extent that the person felt it--it was real!  Efron’s rishus, his wickedness, placed his love for money over his feelings of love, but nevertheless, because of Avrohom Avinu’s demeanor and conduct--even a person as lowly as Efron appreciated that they were ahuvim --merely from their brief encounter.  As we have now taken leave of Avrohom Avinu in the Parashios for the moment, we must realize the practicality of his teachings and apply them as we perform chesed for others --the warmth and beauty, the caring and love should be evident from our attitude and demeanor--the ‘Chesed l’Avrohom’ can and should most certainly live within us in our daily life!



24 Marcheshvan

A TESHUVA MOMENT: “Kindness arouses Hashem’s mercy, even after the merit of our forefathers has been exhausted. These days, harsh judgments abound across the world. The only way to protect ourselves from the hardships that arise each day is to strengthen ourselves in the pursuance of kind deeds, and thereby arouse the Attribute of Kindness in heaven.”  [Excerpted from The Concise Ahavas Chesed The Classic Work of the Chofetz Chaim Adapted to a Daily Learning Schedule in English by Rabbi Asher Wasserman, Shlita]


Hakhel Note: Based upon the importance of Teshuva in this area, if one does not otherwise undertake a Cheshbon Hanefesh at the end of the day, perhaps he can at least undertake the Cheshbon Hanefesh in the area of kind deeds.




QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  When Eliezer saw that the shidduch was going through, the Pasuk records that he bowed down to Hashem.  Rashi brings the Midrash Rabba on these words as follows:  “From here (from Eliezer’s bowing) we learn that one must give thanks to Hashem upon hearing good news.”  Would we not know this by ourselves--isn’t this self understood?  Moreover, if we need to learn it from a Pasuk--did we not already learn this from Avrohom Avinu himself when he was told by Hashem that his descendants would receive Eretz Yisrael (Bereishis 12:7).  Why do we have to learn, or relearn this from Eliezer--the Eved of Avrohom?



FROM A READER: “ANSWERING THE YETZER HORAH’S POTENT CHALLENGE:  In Mesechta Yoma daf 87, Rebbe Yishmael teaches that the various levels of aveira each require a different kaparah, until concluding with Chilul Hashem, which not only requires Teshuvah, Yom Kippur and hardships, but will only be atoned for on the day of death.  Rabbi Daniel Glatstein, Shlita (Morah D’asra of Kehilas Ahavas Yisroel, Cedarhurst, and Maggid Shiur, Kollel Agra D’Pirka, Kew Gardens Hills), quoting the Sefer Darchei Teshuvah (written by a talmid of the Remah m’Pano) brings a technique to assist a person.  In the Gemara, it is brought that various categories of people are considered like a meis, including a sumah, a blind person. The Darchei Teshuvah says that by looking away and making himself like a blind person, it is as if he suffered death, thereby rendering a degree of kaparah for even the most severe aveiros.  Even though the Yetzer Horah’s temptation regarding Shemiras Einayim is very great, especially in our generation, it is an opportunity of a lifetime to achieve atonement for all of one’s aveiros!”





A. The following is excerpted from Praying with Fire II by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita: 


1.  Asking for personal requests on Shabbos is prohibited.  Some say that this includes even spiritual requests, while others permit this.  In either case, one may not pray for healing unless the persons life is in imminent danger. Instead, one may think of a sick person’s name when saying “V’Rofei Cholim - [He] heals the sick,in the Atta Giborportion of the Shabbos Shemoneh Esrei, as one is allowed to think about personal needs on Shabbos.


2.  Despite the fact that in general Tehillim may be recited on Shabbos, it should not be recited in public for a sick person unless he is in imminent danger.  One may say Tehillim privately for a sick person who is not in danger--since it is not obvious to others that the Tehillim is being said for a sick person.


3. It is permitted, and recommended, at the time of Shabbos candle-lighting for a woman to pray for her children to be successful in Torah learning.  The Zohar adds that lighting Shabbos candles ‘with gladness of heart’ also brings peace to the Jewish people and long life to the members of the woman’s family. 


The following Pesokim were provided in a shiur on bishul, by HaRav Shlomo Pearl, Z’tl:


1.  Although some Poskim rule that a Styrofoam cup should be treated as a kli rishon, HaRav Moshe Feinstein and the Chazon Ish both ruled in a similar context that a thermos is a kli sheini, as a thermos is never on the fire, so that it cannot be deemed a kli rishon.  The same would be true of Styrofoam cups, which of course are never placed directly on the fire.  


 2..  There is a Machlokes HaPoskim as to whether one needs to wipe water droplets out a cup in order to pour new hot water into the cup.  HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl and HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, both held that one must do so, whereas HaRav Moshe Feinstein ruled that it is a chumra to do so. 



SWITCH RATHER THAN FIGHT: In this week’s Parasha, we learn that although Avrohom Avinu could have simply ‘taken’ the Me’oras HaMachpeilah as something that was rightfully his--promised to him by Hashem Himself, Avrohom chose not to do so--and paid an exorbitant price instead. We likewise learned in Parashas Lech Lecha that Avrohom Avinu muzzled his animals though the land would be his in the future (an attitude with which Lot disagreed). The Torah is providing us with a great Ma’aseh Avos Lesson--Shalom is worth oh so much more than money--especially when one is dealing with the Umos HaOlam. Standing on principle may be technically just--but, as Avrohom Avinu teaches us, not ultimately worthwhile or correct. Money is finite. Shalom and Kiddush Hashem are infinite.



YOU CAN MAKE THINGS STAND UP! Also, in this week’s Parasha, the Torah records (Bereishis 23:17): “VaYakam Sedei Efron…”--Rashi explains that the Pasuk does not simply record that Avrohom Avinu acquired the field from Efron, but rather that the field was uplifted by Avrohom Avinu purchasing it. The field no longer had a simple, earthly Olam Hazeh kind of existence--but was elevated into a spiritual realm because Avrohom Avinu became the owner of it. As the descendants and heirs of Avrohom Avinu, we too have a similar capability with all of our encounters with Olam Hazeh as well. Whether it be money, food, clothing, furniture, or any of the other ‘pride and joy’ items of Olam Hazeh--we can lift each and every one of them up to a spiritual plane and purpose based upon how we treat them, and what we do with them. Proper brachos over food, clothing that will give nachas to Hashem, furniture which is necessary and not extra or excessive, are but a few of the many examples in our day-to-day life in which we too can create a ‘Vayakam’ on a daily basis in the world at large--uplifting ourselves, and the world along with us!



ONCE AGAIN--FROM ‘OUR AMAZING WORLD’! In order to get a better appreciation of the Chesed of our Avos and what we have to strive for, we remind our readers that the Sefer Our Amazing World by Rabbi Avrohom Katz, Shlita, and Tuvia Cohen, Shlita, writes that a camel drinks more than 34 gallons at one time!  Since Eliezer had 10 camels, this would mean that Rivka as a young girl, supplied more than 340 gallons of water--to Eliezer’s camels alone!


While we are talking about the great Chesed of the Avos and Imahos, we note just one of the millions of Chasodim that Hashem showers upon us, also mentioned in Our Amazing World:


“If all the veins and capillaries that transport blood in an individual would be laid end to end, they would encircle the world twice.  We are talking about a distance of approximately 72,000 miles!”


Thank You Hashem!  Thank You Hashem!



THE POWER OF A BRACHA! We find the bracha (Bereishis 24:60) given by Rivka’s family to her prior to her departure--was a huge bracha that came true!  This is yet another example of how powerful brachos can be--even if they do not come from the best of sources.  All the more so, when the bracha comes from a Talmid Chacham or Tzaddik.  A reminder that one never knows when they may meet a Tzaddik or Talmid Chacham; accordingly, one should always have his thoughts organized as to what brachos he would ask for when the opportunity arises!





A. Avrohom Avinu spoke directly to the Bnei Cheis: “U’Figu Li BeEfron Ben Tzochar--please introduce me to the person whom I want to meet.” There is no point in meeting this person or that person, or going through formalities. The lesson: if it is at all possible, do not make meetings--but go directly to doing!


B.  Why is Efron frowned upon as a money-hungry merchant, while Chiram the King of Tzor who was so handsomely paid for the materials he provided to build the First Bais HaMikdash, was nevertheless considered to be so virtuous that he was zoche to miraculously live for as long as the first Bais Hamikdash stood?  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita answers that like so many other things in life IT IS ALL A MATTER OF INTENT.  Chiram really did what he did to build the Bais HaMikdash--the money was nice, very nice--but it was secondary.  Efron’s first goal was the money--although he also wanted to show respect to Avrohom Avinu as well.  Thus, while a person may believe that his thoughts are locked into his mind--and are--at most--limited to his relationship with Hashem Who knows all thoughts, this may not be the case at all.  The after-effects of a person’s Kavannos and the mark they leave on this world may be demonstrated to all through the results of the very actions that were taken from those ‘private’ thoughts that may not really be so private after all.  We are all familiar with the Chofetz Chaim’s advice to the pharmacist--when filling the prescription make it your primary goal to help the sick patient, and also take the full price.  You are then Osek BeMitzvah and being paid for it--as opposed to earning a good living and secondarily helping people while you’re at it.  We are to live in two worlds --Olam HaZeh and Olam Haba--but they are not equal--and we have to put one ahead of the other.  The choice is ours.  Every task as mundane as it may seem during the day has so much potential in it--where will we steer ourselves in its performance--where will we put the LeSheim Yichud?!  As we move through our day’s duties, if we could put the Olam Haba--LeSheim Mitzvah, LeSheim Shomayim focus on it--we will do much to move towards previously ordinary and now truly exemplary actions--which accurately reflect upon the beautiful thoughts behind them.


C. A reader had once inquired as to why many Siddurim, immediately after Hallel, bring the Pasuk of VeAvrohom ZaKein Bah Bayamim VaHashem Beirach Es Avrohom BaKol…and Avrohom was elderly, coming with his days, and Hashem blessed Avrohom with everything.” What does this Pasuk have to do with Hallel?  In point of fact, the Shelah HaKadosh writes that reciting this Pasuk after Hallel is a Segulah for Ariychus Yamim.  We can well understand that the Pasuk describes Avrohom Avinu’s Ariychus Yamim--but how does that translate into Ariychus Yamim for us?  We may suggest that by reciting Hallel, we recognize the Source of all Life, and to Whom all thanks and appreciation is due.  This was truly Avrohom Avinu’s mission to the world.  By following in his footsteps, we too can be zoche to the long life that accompanies one who is properly fulfilling his mission in this world!


D. We find the phrase ‘Baruch Hashem’ recited by Eliezer (following the ‘Baruch Keil Elyon’ recited by MalkiZedek in Parashas Lech Lecha).  In Sefer Shemos, we will learn that Yisro also recited ‘Baruch Hashem’.  Thus, blessing Hashem is something that the B’nai Noach are eminently capable of.  Are we, then, any different?  We may suggest that what makes us different is that we not only recite ‘Baruch Hashem’, but ‘Baruch Atah Hashem--we acknowledge the You--the presence of Hashem before us.  Hashem is not a Great Diety who is far away, but rather he is our Hashem, whose presence we acknowledge that we stand in at all times.  Moreover, our relationship is so personal and direct that it is not chutzpa--but rather a sign of love and affection--to refer to our G-d in the ‘second person’ personal, as no one else in the world can.  When reciting a Bracha, we should note that it is not just Baruch Hashem--but Baruch Atah Hashem--- and especially rejoice with the word ‘Atah’--for it so distinguishes and elevates us from the billions in the world around us!


E. The Seforno writes two specific points in Derech Eretz that we learn from the Parasha:


1. From Eliezer’s request of Rivka to give him water only for himself--we see that a guest should ask for less than he really needs.


2. From Rivka’s beautifully effusive response--feeding all of the camels as well--we learn that a host should do more than he really has to.


F. HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, notes that from the Torah’s detail and ostensible repetition relating to the events in this week’s Parasha, we learn what a premium the Torah places on Derech Eretz. However, most acts of Derech Eretz must arise from our own common sense and sensibilities. For example, one should be careful not to disturb someone else’s sleep, not because if he does so it would be ‘gezel sheina’ or because he would be deemed a ‘mazik’ for doing so--but simply because a person is not acting like a mentsch if he does not sufficiently care about the sleep of another . Every person must at a minimum conduct himself in accordance with a code of behavior that all people living in a society should understand. A person must always be concerned that he acts as a Min Hayishuv--part of a civilized society. The reason that gezel was the sin that brought down the Dor HaMabul is because everyone should have understood that gezel is wrong--and yet they all did it anyways. There is a greater chiyuv on a person to act in a way which is self-understood to be the good and proper conduct of a human being. One should not ask: “Where is it written that I can’t do that?” It should be written in your head and your heart--even if it is not written in the Torah or in any Sefer. A person should always take into account the feelings and needs of those around him to, as HaRav Erlanger teaches be a chaver tov to the chevras bnei adam--all of those in the world around him!


G. There is a Yiddish term sometimes used by those who wish to perform a Mitzvah in the most perfunctory manner--yotzei tzu zain--so that he has fulfilled the Mitzvah. The yotzei in a sense can mean here--to leave the Mitzvah--to shake himself off, to patur himself from it. In the context of Chesed, this may occur when a person does the minimum that he has to in order to be recognized as having performed it. Bikur Cholim, for instance, when one only has a couple of minutes to perform it saying “Sorry I have to go”, or especially arriving for Nichum Aveilim at a time that the room is crowded and one will stay for a few moments and recite the Hamakom…may, depending upon the circumstances fall within the yotzei tzu zain category which we suggest a person should avoid. After all, is that the way the Avos would perform the Mitzvah?!--Let us once again recall our guideline--“Masai Yagiyah Maasai LeMa’asei Avosai, LeMa’asei Avrohom, Yitzchak V’Yaakov.” To avoid this from being mere lip service, we must pay special attention not only to an act of Chesed--but to the quality of its performance!



GEVUROS!   The second bracha of Shemone Esrei is known as ‘Gevuros’, which is the Middah of Yitzchak Avinu. Techiyas Hameisim (which may be a part of the Akeidah) is also known as ‘Gevuros’, for in this bracha we demonstrate HaKadosh Boruch Hu’s absolute Omnipotence.


The Ritva (Taanis 2A) notes that the concept of Techiyas HaMeisim is mentioned four (4) times in this bracha.  While Techiyas HaMeisim is certainly unparalleled gevuros--why need it be mentioned four different times within one short bracha?  As we know, the Anshei K’nesses HaGedola compiled each bracha B’Ruach HaKadosh, and each word is very literally counted and deeply meaningful (see the remarkable words of the Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chayim 112:4,5).


In response to this question, the Ritva teaches that in fact there is no reiteration here at all.  Rather, there are four separate and distinct forms of Techiyas HaMeisim mentioned in this bracha:


FIRST:  “Mechaye Meisim Ata Rav L’Hoshia” is immediately followed by Morid HaGeshem, because this phase refers to Hashem’s bringing us to life with proper rain, which bring us our food and sustenance.


SECOND:  “Mechaye Meisim B’Rachamim Rabim” (which is followed by Somech Noflim) refers to people who are seriously or even deathly ill whom HaKadosh Boruch Hu brings back to life through miraculous healing power.


THIRD:  “Melech Meimis U’Mechaye” refers to the departed whom the Neviim (such as Eliyahu HaNavi and Elisha HaNavi) helped bring back to life, and additionally to those whom Hashem brings to life “B’Olom HaNeshomos” (obviously this is a niftar concept).


FOURTH:  “V’Neeman Ata L’Hachayos Meisim” refers to the ultimate Techiyas HaMeisim, which we all anxiously await.


We see here how Hashem’s greatest gevuros have always been with us, are currently with us and will in the future be with us, as well.


PRACTICAL SUGGESTION:  During this week, in which Yitzchak Avinu comes to the fore as the successor of Avrohom Avinu, we should especially appreciate the Middah of Gevurah of Hashem that Yitzchak Avinu did, by stopping at each of the four references to Techiyas HaMeisim and thinking for a second about its particular meaning.



AT THE MIDPOINT: We are at the midway point between Sukkos and Chanukah. Looking back and looking forward there is joy; what are we to make of the times now?  In a Shiur given before the Six Day War, when the situation in Eretz Yisrael was dire and desperate (to say the least), HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, taught as follows:  When we feel a heavy hand of Hashem upon us, it is for two purposes--to attain atonement for our sins, and to reprove us so that we improve our ways.  When the entire community suffers, each individual must recognize that a community does not have a separate and distinct existence.  Rather, a community is made up of many individuals.  In fact, Hashem does not make a gezeirah against the K’lal unless each individual in that K’lal is supposed to receive exactly that which he receives.  This is a cardinal principal of our Emunah--”HaTzur Tamim Pa’alo--Hashem’s actions are perfect” (Devarim 32:4).  This means that each individual’s particular tircha and tza’ar is, in a manner which is beyond our comprehension, fully decreed and accounted for by Hashem.  With this in mind, it is imperative that we remember Who it is that is bringing the difficult times, the yissurin, the punishments upon us.  It is Avinu HaAv HaRachaman.  In fact, Chazal (Sanhedrin 46A) teach that when Hashem metes punishment upon a person, Hashem Himself kaveyachol feels the pain along with the person.  We must accordingly remember the words of Dovid HaMelech in Tehillim (85:10):  “Ach Karov Lireiav Yisho…--surely His salvation is close to those who fear Him.”  We are not to fear, be depressed or dejected--we are to realize that the Yeshuah will come.  The key now is not to hide in a time of tzara, not to ‘get lost in the crowd’.  Rather, one should view himself as responsible to work for the Yeshuas HaTzibbur through his own personal Teshuvah and Ma’asim Tovim, recognizing that every ma’aseh tovah katan--every little good deed that he does really could tip the scales to zechus and hatzalah.  Indeed, it is not even only physical actions that could accomplish this--it is every machshavah tovah, any additional Kavannah in Tefillah, every minute of learning, and any iyun in learning that could turn things around for himself and his people.  Shmuel HaNavi enlightened Shaul with the following words (Shmuel I, 15:17):  “Halo Im Katan Atta BeAinecha Rosh Shivtei Yisrael Atta--you may be small in your own eyes, but you are a leader for K’lal Yisrael.”  This, teaches, HaRav Friedlander, are the guiding words which each and every one of us must live by.  These days are precious.  We are all perturbed, we are all wondering, we all don’t know why suffering is happening, why it is continuing, and what will happen in the future.  Unlike the other nations of the world, however, we are blessed with the words of Chazal and our Talmidei Chachomim who guide us and enlighten us on the path of righteousness, on the path of truth.  Each and every one of us has to remember who we are--and how we can help ourselves and K’lal Yisrael.  Remember--soon we will experience the light of Chanukah--may our thoughts, our Tefillos, and our actions bring us there joyously and successfully! 


Additional Note: It is a perfect time to prepare a special 30-Day Kabbalah—when tomorrow is thirty days before Chanukah!



23 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: Today is a month since Simchas Torah (in Chutz La’aretz)--23 Tishrei to 23 Marcheshvan--certainly a most auspicious time to rededicate and re-energize ourselves to Torah study!



RECEIVED FROM A READER: “Anger and danger are only one small letter apart...which should also be a good reminder where anger can lead us!”



L’EVED HASHEM:  The following very meaningful teaching is excerpted from Growth Through Tehillim, by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita: 


Lamenatzei’ach L’eved Hashem…For the Conductor; by the servant of Hashem…” (Tehillim 18:1).  The term Lamenatzei’ach, which is the first word of this Chapter is translated as “Conductor.” The term “Conductor” is understood to mean that, when music was played, there was a conductor to lead the musicians and the singers. But the term can readily be understood to refer to the Ultimate Conductor of the Universe.  Hashem is the Ultimate Power and Mind behind all that occurs in the world.  We constantly need to increase our understanding that, all that happens to us in life, was orchestrated by the One Who directs all events, situations, and circumstances. We are, in a sense, the ‘actors’ who perform against the background that has been set up for us.  However, unlike an actor in a major play where the entire script of what will be said and done has been written by someone else, in our lives we have total free will to choose what we will say and what we will do. It is our choices of words and actions that will make our lives a tremendous success or an utter failure.  The criteria for success and failure has nothing to do with how eloquently we speak or how dramatically we carry out our actions.  Rather, success is speaking and acting according to the will of Hashem. Failure is the opposite. 


The background of events, situations, and circumstances is not always to our liking. Many things happen in the world in which we live that we find challenging. That is however, exactly what makes a great actor--one who utilizes the difficult factors and performs magnificently, nevertheless.  Thus, with this in mind, when we are faced with a challenge, we should ask ourselves, “What are the wisest things for me to say and do now, that will ensure a great performance?” The Judge of our performance is Hashem, Creator and Sustainer of the universe.  If He approves of what we say and do, then our life performance is an unqualified success. If He disapproves, then even if we have the approval of other mortals, we have not yet accomplished our life’s mission.  Let us be resolved to live our lives in ways that are pleasing to our loving Creator. The one thing to remember is that all that arises in our lives are more opportunities to serve Hashem in ways that will enhance us. 


Lamenatzei’ach--Hashem is the Conductor--we know He does His part.  The challenge of our daily lives is L’eved Hashem--for us to take what Hashem places before us and sanctify our lives with it! 



IMPORTANT HALACHOS RELATING TO DAVENING: The following notes are excerpted from the Mishna Berurah Hilchos Birchos Hashachar and Pesukei D’Zimra (Dirshu Edition):


A. The Shulchan Aruch writes that the reason we recite various parts of Karbanos in the morning is so that every day one will be sure to learn Mikra, Mishna and Gemara. The Mishna Berurah, however, notes that one is only credited with learning Mishna and Gemara if he understands what he is saying--otherwise it is not considered to be learning. There is a fascinating additional thought here. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchos Talmud Torah 2:13) writes that one should try learn Mishna and Gemara even if he does not understand them, and L’Asid Lavo he will be able to understand that which he tried to understand here. The Chida adds that the attempt itself is considered Talmud Torah, and that if one understands the words but not the concept being conveyed, this also constitutes the Mitzvah of Torah study. The foregoing relates to Torah She’be’al Peh. With respect to Torah Shebichsav, even if one does not understand what he is reciting--as long as he realizes that he is reciting these words, the Shelah HaKadosh writes that he fulfills the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah. The Chida writes that this is true of the study of the Zohar as well--one should study even if he does not understand it, and it is “mesugal leha’ir es hanefesh-- enlighten the person’s soul!” (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 50:1, Mishna Berurah seif katan 2, and Dirshu Note 3)


B. Once one has commenced Boruch She’amar he cannot speak about other matters until after Tachanun. The prohibition to speak even makes it impermissible to recite the words “Boruch Hu U’Varuch Shemo” when reciting a bracha. It is permissible to recite “Amen” on any bracha that one hears, even if one is in the middle of a Pasuk in Pesukei D’Zimra, if it is at the end of a thought. It is also permissible to answer Modim D’Rabanan and to recite the first Pasuk of Kriyas Shema with the Tzibbur if they are then reciting it. One should also respond to Barchu and recite the Pesukim of Kedusha together with the Tzibur. One should not, however, answer “Amen” to Veyatzmach Purkanei, but should answer “Amen” to the rest of Kaddish.  It is also permissible to recite a Birchos Hoda’ah (such as a bracha on lighting and thunder), and Asher Yatzar in Pesukei D’Zimra. It is preferable to recite the Asher Yatzar at certain points which constitute “bein haperakim” (interim points) in Pesukei D’Zimra which are listed in Orach Chaim 51, Mishna Berurah seif katan 13. (SA OC 51:4 Mishna Berurah seif katan 8 and 9, Bi’ur Halacha d’h Tzarich and Dirshu Note 12) Hakhel Note: It would be a good idea to mark the Bein HaPerakim of Pesukei D’Zimra in your siddur.


C. The main reason that we recite Ashrei daily is to recite the Pasuk of “Poseiach Es Yadecha U’Masbia Lechol Chaim Ratzon--this is a Shevach to Hashem and we should Kavannah that He is Mashgiach Ahl Briyosav U’Mefarnisan--that Hashem watches over His creations and sustains them. The Magein Avrohom brings from the Rabbeinu Bachya that when reciting these words one should think about the Nifla’os Hashem, Hashem’s greatness and His chesed towards us. This will keep a person distant from sin, and bring him great zechusim! If one realizes that he did not have Kavannah in reciting the Pasuk Poseiach Es Yadecha he should being again from Poseiach Es Yadecha until the end of the Kepitel. If one realizes that he did not have Kavannah when he is well beyond that spot and does not have the opportunity to return, he should at least recite from Poseiach Es Yadecha until the end of the Kepitel after davening. (SA OC 51:6 Mishna Berurah seif katan 15 and 16 and Dirshu Note 18)


D. The Arizal would give Tzedaka in a standing position when reciting the words V’Ata Moshel Bakol (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 19).


E. The ikar of Pesukei D’Zimra is from Ashrei through Kol HaNeshama Tehalel Kah. (SA OC 52 Mishna Berurah seif katan 4)


F. If a woman is davening in Shul with the tzibbur but comes late, there is a machlokes haposkim as to whether she should skip in order to begin Shemone Esrei with the tzibur or not. The concept of skipping in order to begin Shemone Esrei with the tzibur is not lechatechila at all--as a man must come to Shul on time so that he does not need to skip. The Maggid (the malach) who learned with the Beis Yosef taught him that one must be careful not to skip in order to ‘catch-up’ because when doing so he overturns the tzinoros--the channels--through which our Tefillah travels. If it happens that one did come late, then there is a specific order of priority as to the order of priority. There is a machlokes haposkim as to whether one must make-up that which he skipped after davening. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 1-3, and Dirshu Note 3)


G. Lachatechila one should be careful not to recite Birchos HaShachar after the fourth hour of the day, but b’dieved one may recite them until chatzos. If one is lenient and recites the brachos even after chatzos, one should not reprimand him. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 10)


H. One should stand when reciting Yishtabach, both during the week and on Shabbos, and whether one is davening privately or B’tzibur. The reason for this is that it is considered a Birchas HaMitzvah which should be recited standing and also a Davar She’b’kedusha. Indeed, the Bach writes that one fulfills his obligation to speak praises of Hashem by reciting Pesukei D’Zimra, and accordingly Baruch She’amar and Yishtabach are brachos before and after the Mitzvah! (Mishna Berurah 53 seif katan 1 and Dirshu Note 2)



22 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: Chazal teach that each and every one of us is obligated to say the words “Masai Yagia Ma’asai LeMa’asheh Avosai, LeMa’asei Avrohom Yitzchok VeYaakov”--when will my deeds reach those of my forefathers--the deeds of Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yaakov.  HaRav Yaakov Naiman, Z’tl, provides the following explanations to this extremely important teaching:


1.  A person must aspire to reach the level of the Avos.  Even if this may seem impossible, the desire and ambition must be there.  Indeed, he continues, Napoleon is reported to have said that a soldier who does not aspire to become a general--will not succeed even at being a good foot soldier. 


2.  One should actually place an emphasis on what one has learned from the ma’asim of the Avos in Sefer Bereishis--to treat guests with great respect, to run to do Mitzvos, to daven for others…TO TAKE SPECIFIC AND REAL ACTION to bring the world to perfection.


Hakhel Note: As noted above, Chazal teach that one is obligated to say these words--Masai Yagia...it is reported that HaRav Nosson Wachtfogel, Z’tl, was unsure how often to say (and obviously think about applying) these words--so he made sure to do so every day!



HOW TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE:  HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, teaches that not once does the Torah record any vikuchim, any debates that Avrohom Avinu had, either in Ur Kasdim, in Charan or in Cana’an.  Instead, the Torah began Parashas Vayeirah by showing the great lengths to which Avrohom Avinu went to find guests, common wayfarers, so that he could show them hospitality and have them realize how Hashem takes care of them.  Then, right before the akeidah, the Torah once again writes:  “Vayitah Eishel Bive’er Sheva Vayikrah Sham Besheim Hashem Kel Olam--and Avrohom Avinu set up an inn, and through it he was able to call out in the name of Hashem, as the Master of the World.”  So, from the beginning through the end, Avrohom Avinu’s success was not by lecturing to the non-believers, but by giving to them, and through this bringing them to Hashem.  Rav Erlanger related that in the earlier years of Bnei Brak there were some mechalelei Shabbos in town.  There was a person who would wash his car every Shabbos in public to the shock of the Bnei Yeshiva.  One of the bochurim went to Rav Shach, Z’tl, to ask him what he should do.  HaRav Shach answered-”You take care of his gashmiyus, and Hashem will take care of his ruchniyus.” 


How did HaRav Shach know this?  HaRav Erlanger suggests that it was from Avrohom Avinu.  Avrohom’s Derech HaChaim was one of giving.  Through giving to another, one establishes a relationship, an understanding with him that all you want to do is help--and if I am helping here then I am also helping there, and also mean to help over there and over there as well. 


As we see in this week’s Parasha, it was Efron who spoke a lot, but gave nothing.  On the other hand, Avrohom Avinu who gave was known by the very people of Efron as the Nesi Elokim--the prince among them. 


One final story from HaRav Erlanger to bring home the point:  Petach Tikvah was a small city in Eretz Yisrael which was established as a religious moshav.  In 1947/48, times were very difficult, and the young couples were struggling with their frumkeit.  The local avreichim, Kollel students got together to see what could be done.  They decided to bring great Rabbanim from Yerushalayim to give shiurim to the young couples in Halacha and Hashkafa.  Rav Wolbe, then a young man, thought that they were a step ahead of themselves.  First, he said, let us raise money and give it to the young couples to help them.  Then, we can bring in the Maggidei Shiur.  The others strongly disagreed:  “These people need to be educated,” they said.  Because of the disagreement in approach, Rav Wolbe went to the Chazon Ish.  The Chazon Ish told him that his approach was correct.


Be good, be giving, then the right thing will happen.  This is the legacy that has been passed down to us from generation to generation--directly from Avrohom Avinu! 



CAPTURE THE MOMENT!:  We especially note that Chazal (Brachos 26B) learn from a Pasuk in this week’s Parasha (Bereishis 24:63) that Yitzchak Avinu instituted Tefillas Mincha. We remind our readers that in Praying With Fire II, Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita brings the powerful teaching of the Rashba (Shailos U’Teshuvos HaRashba 5:1):  Just as the Aseres Yemei Teshuva is the Eis Ratzon ( most auspicious period for Heavenly Grace) of each year, so too is our daily davening of tefillas Mincha the Eis Ratzon of each day.  Eliyahu HaNavi actually waited until Mincha time to pleadfully exclaim “Aneini Hashem Aneini--O’ answer me Hashem, O’ answer me!”  Chazal therefore teach that we should be ever-so-careful with Mincha--for although we are in the middle of the day’s activities, and people, places and events swirl around us--a Kavannah-laden Tefillah can soar to unparalleled heights at this most efficacious time of the day.  Let us focus--for we have an Aseres Yemei Teshuva-like opportunity every day-and do not have to wait ten months to attain it! 


Additional Notes on Tefillas Mincha: 


1.  One is required to wash his hands before each Tefillah.  If one is in a situation where it is impossible to wash his hands before Mincha, he/she should at least clean them with a cloth or other midi demenaki--’item that cleans’. 


2.  If possible, one should try to give Tzedakah before each Tefillah as well. 


3.  One should attempt to arrive in Shul to daven Mincha in plenty of time before it begins, so that he can sit down and recite Ashrei without the feeling that he is ‘chapping a Mincha’.  If one did come late to Mincha and finds the Tzibbur already davening Shemone Esrei, he should immediately begin reciting Shemone Esrei without first reciting Ashrei.  After davening, he should then recite Chapter 145 of Tehillim as a regular Kepitel. 


4.   HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, writes that when one does not think about his business affairs on Shabbos, he is demonstrating his Emunah that all of his Parnassah really comes from Hashem--and that it is not one’s personal powers and strengths that give him his livelihood.  Likewise, he continues, when one davens Mincha with Kavannah in the middle of a busy work day or in the middle of a busy day at home--he/she is affirmatively demonstrating that all of life is b’yad Hashem--and that Hashleich Al Hashem Yehavecha VeHu Yechalkelecha--cast upon Hashem your burden and He will sustain you”  (Tehillim 55:23).


5.  After davening Mincha, it is a wonderful idea to spend an extra few moments learning a Mishna, a Halacha, a Pasuk with Rashi, or reciting a Chapter of Tehillim slowly--so that one takes the elevated time and continues to remain elevated for a few moments longer.  Over the course of a year, one will have learned an extra 365 Mishnayos, Halachos or Pesukim, or recited 365 chapters of Tehillim.  How beautiful!



CONNECTED OPPORTUNITIES:  Chazal (Avos 4:2) teach that we should run to perform Mitzvos--and to run from Aveiros--a simple enough instruction, with no additional thought seemingly necessary.  However, Chazal do indeed add a word of further explanation--”For the reward of a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah, and the reward of an Aveira is an Aveira”.  A Mitzvah is not simply one grand act, and an Aveira one devastating misdeed.  A person’s deeds simply do not stand alone.  One moment’s action leads to the next, and a 180 degree turn away from the previous act requires much effort.  Indeed, if one studies his day, he will find that Mitzvos may be more bunched at certain times--such as in Shul in the morning where davening, tzedakah and other chesed may be performed in tandem, or in the evening when you know it is time to study, and to help this person in this way and that person in that way. On the other hand, one gesture of anger, one word of ona’as devorim or lashon hara leads to another and to another--for once you start it is simply harder to stop, and sets the tone for your next moment of life.  One can truly aid (and encourage) himself if he bothers to mentally note (and perhaps actually notate) during the day when he has fallen prey to the mud of one aveira sticking him on to the next one--and, to the contrary, when he has encountered the beautiful medley of Mitzvos being performed in joyous concert. Every act that we perform has ramifications--not only to others and to the world--but to ourselves--because it will guide and direct us onto our next step important in life--which, like the one before it, is always an irreplaceable one!



21 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: One should consider how he provides his tochacha, reproach to others: “Reproaching another Jew properly requires a good deal of wisdom and insight into human nature. There is a fine line between rebuke that constitutes a kiddush Hashem and that which engenders a chillul Hashem, and we must take great care to remain on the proper side of that line. The only way to deliver rebuke that will be accepted and trusted is to do so with love, which gives the recipient of our rebuke a sense of belonging that can be a very powerful force.”


[Excerpted from the sefer Living Kiddush Hashem. Living Kiddush Hashem is now offering a free weekly email. To subscribe, contact livingkiddushhashem@gmail.com. For more information about Kiddush Hashem, please visit www.livingkiddushhashem.com.]



THE FIRE OF TORAH: The Steipeler Gaon, Z’tl, over the course of any given weekday was advised of a tremendous amount of problems and tzaros that people from all over the world faced.  He also must have undoubtedly had his own personal and family challenges in life as well.  How, then, could he have had the Yishuv Ha’Daas--the presence of mind and the clarity of thought-- to produce such great works as the Kehillas Yaakov and his other seforim?  This may be the answer:  He once remarked that when it came time for him to learn, he put all else out of his mind and concentrated entirely on the Torah in front of him.  This is an immense and meaningful lesson for us.  While we may be unable to produce Seforim like the Steipeler, we too can make the effort to focus when we are studying--to the exclusion of all else.  With problems out of mind, without letting the mind wander, without responding to buzzing or vibrations, or even to phone calls (unless they are really, truly, absolutely necessary), one will be demonstrating that he too has or wants to have the attitude and approach, the respect and reverence, for the study of Torah that the Gedolei Hador know is necessary to succeed. 


Additional Notes:


1.      HaRav Avrohom Yaffen, Z’tl was the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Navordok and the author of the Sefer Derech Aison and other works, and was constantly sought after for advice and guidance --with lines of people coming to see him. Once while in Bialystok, his son-in-law, HaRav Chaim Boruch Faskowitz, Z’tl, asked him how he ever had a chance to learn if he was constantly besieged by others seeking Brachos and counsel.  He responded that he studied in the five minute intervals between one person and another.  “For if a person cannot focus and concentrate in the five minutes that he has, than he cannot do it in the five hours that he has either….”


2.      Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Shlita, notes that the word ‘Aish’ in ‘Aish HaTorah’ is an acronym for Ahava and Simcha--love and joy--for if a person truly learns with love and joy--with true appreciation of the opportunity--his Torah study will be not only be a spark --but a flame of Kedusha to light and warm a world of darkness!



AN AMAZING LESSON FOR TODAY’S TIMES!  The twentieth letter of the Chofetz Chaim in the Michtevei Chofetz Chaim is entitled Ma’amar Chizuk HaEmunah. For those who have the Michtevei Chofetz Chaim, we urge that you read the letter inside. For those who do not, the Chofetz Chaim provides the following moving teaching:


At the outset of Parashas Vayeirah, the Torah describes in detail for us how the Malach came to advise Avrohom Avinu and Sarah Imeinu that they would have a child in the near future. The Torah then describes Sarah Imeinu’s reaction--how could it be that a couple of this age could have a child?! The Torah then further describes how Hashem came to Avrohom and advised Avrohom that Sarah Imeinu expressed some kind of doubt--and that nothing, of course, was beyond Hashem. The Torah then goes on further to relate that when Avrohom inquired of Sarah as to her reaction to the news, she denied a lack of Emunah, explaining that the words came out of her mouth without any negative intent. The Torah does not stop, and relates that Avrohom told her--no, something was lacking in her Emunah.


The Chofetz Chaim finds this tremendous detail difficult--as every word in the Torah is so highly weighed, and is invaluable, with not even a point of a letter being extra. What, then, is the Torah teaching with the great description of this event, and by mentioning that Sarah Imeinu had doubts?! The Chofetz Chaim concludes that there is a great lesson provided to us in the Torah here, and that “He’ir Hashem Einai--Hashem enlightened him”, in order to understand the lesson: Chazal teach that “Ma’aseh Avos Siman LaBonim”--and over time we have found that everything that happened to the Avos happened to us. The Torah’s description of the dialogues between the Malach, Avrohom Avinu, Sarah Imeinu and HaKadosh Baruch Hu alludes to the times of the Ikvesah D’Moshicha, the time preceding when Hashem’s Kavod will be revealed to the world. At that [our] time, there will certainly be Gedolei Yisrael who will urge the people to strengthen themselves in Emunah and do Teshuvah so that we can be redeemed. They will urge us to strengthen ourselves in Torah and Ma’asim Tovim so that the Moshiach will come. However, there will be people at the time who will not believe the Gedolim who urge us to do Teshuvah, and will say: “Is it really possible that this long and bitter Galus will end now, in our lifetimes, at this time?”; “How can it be that in the midst of these times the Geulah will suddenly come?” They will, accordingly, go about their everyday business and through their conduct demonstrate to others to do so as well. Hashem will be upset and exclaim: “HaYipaleih MeiHashem Davar--why are you doubting that Hashem will not bring the Geulah in the here and now?!” The people will respond that they do have Emunah, and that they do know that the Geulah is possible--but it could still be years off. What they should, however, realize is that each and every day the Geulah is possible--and they should very literally believe that it can happen each and every day. This means that when we don’t take active, real preparations for the Moshiach, our Emunah is flawed--and that anything that we say about the Moshiach is lip service--or at least not heartfelt. This is the response to Sarah Imeinu of “Lo, Ki Tzachakt--no, you doubted.”


Now, let us look around us--the tzaros of K’lal Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael and around the world, the ruchniyus of K’lal Yisrael so badly suffering--from the uneducated majority of our people--through the teens-at-risk. We can most certainly rationalize a level of flawed Emunah--how could the Geulah come in our lowly state--can the Geulah really come now?! It can, and will--through Teshuvah Sheleimah, Torah and Ma’asim Tovim.


We must do what we can in order to greet the Moshiach B’Simcha--one who prepares for his coming each and every day--one who acts B’Emunah Sheleimah will bask in and reap all of the benefits--BeKarov BeMeheirah V’Yameinu!



SHIDDUCHIM! In the coming week’s Parasha, Chayei Sarah, the Torah focuses on finding one’s bashert. Upon reflection, the Torah teaches not only how Yitzchok Avinu was paired with Rivka, but also how Adam was given Chava, Yaakov Avinu introduced to Rochel, and Moshe Rabeinu to Tziporah.  It is rare (to say the least) for the Torah to repeat one kind of event, albeit important, more than once.  Here, however, the basic reason for the repetition seems clear:  the primary importance of shidduchim as a basis for humanity, and for the continuation of K’lal Yisrael.  In assisting others--whether they are immediate family, distant family, friends or acquaintances, to find their zivug hagun--their proper mate, we are participating directly in a most sublime Chesed.  As far as we know, the only human state that the Torah expressly calls “not good” is for man to be alone (Bereishis 2:18).  If we are truly looking to help others, we should certainly help them to rid themselves of a “not good” status.  Moreover, if it is not good for them, it is not good for us, because all of our lives, and all of K’lal Yisrael, are inextricably bound together.


We once again provide our annual Parashas Chayei Sarah Appeal:


Each one of us is probably familiar with at least one couple who were each other’s first date--and yet were zoche to marry each other.  The much more common experience, however, is the difficulty and struggle of mixing and matching--especially for those who are not well-connected and are too kind to hound family, friends, and/or Shadchonim with their frustrations and their needs.  So, what can we do?  We are not professional Shadchonim, we are not social butterflies, and we barely have the time to take care of our own little needs, let alone having the time to actually work on, and sometimes convince, two families that your recommendation is solid, or two ‘out-of-towners’ to ‘go out’ with each other.


Our modest suggestion:  As this week is the Parasha of Shidduchim, and, as Chazal teach that privately performed Chesed is especially meaningful, we suggest that you, together with your spouse or close friends, undertake b’li neder, to make just one date--just one good attempt at a match.  Let the Torah, let the actions of our Avos, let your G-d-given and inspired feelings for others be your inspiration.


This week’s Parasha is before us.  It is talking to us.  The task may be daunting, time-consuming and embarrassing--but this really means that your efforts are all the more worthwhile.


Note:  If you are unsure about what to say in proposing a Shidduch, we highly recommend and urge you to contact the Chofetz Chaim Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline at 718-951-3696.


 Additional Note:  If one would redt a Shidduch for a Ger or a Giores, then in addition to the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha, he/she would also fulfill the Mitzvah of Veahavtem Es HaGer--demonstrating special affection for one who went through so much to become a Torah Jew.


May our year be replete with…“Mazel-Tov!!”



20 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: In his approbation to the Sefer V’Zos HaBracha [one of the most popular Seforim on Hilchos Brachos in Eretz Yisrael, by Rabbi Aleksander Mandelbaum, Shlita], HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z’tl, writes that when reciting a Bracha, aside from the necessary Kavanos when reciting the words, one must be sure to think that he is not a ‘Kafoi Tova’--a denier of the good and instead, that he is a ‘Makir Tova’--that he recognizes the good that Hashem is bestowing/has bestowed upon him and that he is expressing it with this Bracha.  Hakhel Note:  What a great way to focus prior to making any Bracha!



AS THE WINTER APPROACHES: RICOLA--FROM KEHILAH KASHRUS OF FLATBUSH: Subsequent to a great deal of research by the CRC of Chicago, the following flavors of Ricola Drops have been found to be acceptable for use in our establishments TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL OTHER RICOLA VARIETIES: Honey Herb, Lemon Mint, Lemon Mint - Sugar Free, Natural Herb (original)”



BRACHOS ALERT: We have been advised by the OU as to the following brachos on certain Grab1 bars:


Grab1 – Peanut butter oats bar is Ha’odama

Grab1 - Chocolate oat bar is Ha’odama





1.  “The Torah relates that after the destruction of Sodom v’Amora, “Vayisa Mishom Avrohom,” and Avrohom departed from there.    Rashi gives two reasons for Avrohom’s departure.  The second reason was to distance himself from the disreputable and incestuous Lot.  But the first - and presumably primary reason was that ‘he saw that the cities had been destroyed, and that the passersby had ceased’.  Avrohom could not live in a place devoid of Kiruv opportunities!”


Hakhel Note:  A major figure in the Kiruv movement in the United States advised us that ‘Kiruv Rechokim’ was an inappropriate term--for who could really tell if someone already presumably ‘Karov’ was really more ‘Rachok’ than others. The appropriate term for all, he advised, was Ahavas Yisrael!


2. “Rav Shach, Zt’l, asks why it is that Chazal specifically highlight Halvoyas Hameis and Hachnosas Kallah as two mitzvos that should be performed “b’tznius--discreetly.  After all, there are plenty of other Mitzvos that Chazal could have used as an example of Chesed--b’tznius. Why pick something that seems the exact opposite of what is done “b’tznius”?  Rav Shach explains that Chazal specifically use these two examples to teach us that the Ikar Mitzvah of Halvoyas Hameis and Hachnosas Kallah is the feeling behind it, not the action. Simply going to a wedding and dancing, and “going to a Levaya” is not the complete Mitzvah of Hachnosas Kallah and Halvoyas Hameis. Feeling happy for the Chosson & Kallah and feeling sad for the Aveil (as evidenced by Halvayas HaMeis and at Nichum Aveilim) is what Chazal meant by using these two examples.  Chessed is not a perfunctory act--but an act that energizes the good actions of the body--with the thoughtfulness of the soul!”



‘CHESED L’AVROHOM’: Last week’s Parasha teaches us the ‘Chesed L’Avrohom’ which is, and must continue to be, and grow and shine as, a hallmark of his descendants.  We provide below several excerpts from the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefer Ahavas Chesed, which provides so many essential Halachos and Hashkafos of Chesed, as a concomitant foundation of the World (Olam Chesed Yiboneh), the Torah (Techilaso Chesed VeSofo Chesed), and K’lal Yisrael (Sholosh Middos Yesh Bohem, Rachmonim...U’Gomlei Chasodim). The Chofetz Chaim teaches as follows:


1. If a person does kindness on earth, he awakens Chesed above, and the day is crowned with Chesed through his actions. Happy is the man who exhibits the proper conduct below, since all depends on his act to awaken the corresponding activity above.


2. One should be especially careful not to neglect practicing Chesed even for a single day of his life, *in the same way* that one takes care to set fixed times for daily Torah study.


3. The Gimmel and Daled of the Aleph Bais teach that we are to be Gomel Dalim--to act benevolently to the poor, to the extent that just as the foot of the Gimel stretched to the Daled, so too is it fitting for us to run after the mitzvah of performing kindness to another, not waiting for them to come to us for assistance.


4. When blessed with guests, one should promptly place food and drink before them, since the visitor may be ashamed to ask. When serving them, the host should be gracious, hiding his troubles from them, for he may break their spirit, when it is really his role to revive them and boost their spirits.  If the guest sleeps over, the host should give him the best bed available, since it is very important for the weary to rest comfortably.  Sometimes, the host who provides the guest with the opportunity to rest comfortably does better by him than in giving him food and drink....


5. There are many types of Chesed performed by word of mouth, for instance to pray that Hashem heal the sick.  This is included in the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. A similar chesed of prayer applies to a situation in which harm threatens a person even if he does not know about it.  This we learn from Avrohom Avinu, who interceded on behalf of the people of Sodom in just such an instance. 





A.  In the beginning of last week’s Parasha, we find that Avrohom Avinu exerted extra special efforts to fulfill the mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim even when in the epitome of his own pain.  Perhaps there is a not-so-subtle lesson here.  When a person is experiencing pain, he should not only look inward to himself, feeling sorry for himself and in need of tender loving care--but also using the moment in some way to appreciate the pain of another, and perhaps in at least some small way to help someone else out who is concomitantly undergoing a painful experience, or has a need of some kind as well.  Thus, even at a time when one looks inward--he is using the moment as a sublime moment of growth--never forgetting the world around him that he is very much a part of as well!


B.  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, asks why it pained Avrohom Avinu so greatly that he had no guests and that he could not fulfill the Mitzvah of Hachnosas Orchim.  Why should there be anything to be mitzta’er about--if there are no guests, there is simply no chiyuv, no obligation?!  After all, would one be pained if it is not Pesach and he has no Matzah?! HaRav Moshe explains that Avrohom Avinu had such a love for Chesed, such a desire to do the Mitzvah, that he still longed for it even if it was actually not there for him to do--just like a person on a low level who desires a piece of Boston cream pie cannot rest--even if he has to travel several miles--in order to satisfy the physical desire.  Moreover, HaRav Moshe adds, Avrohom Avinu wanted to fulfill the Mitzvah especially when he was sick and suffering--because the yisurin he would feel for the sake of the Mitzvah would be precious and cherished by him. 


C.  There are two Machnisei Orchim mentioned in the Parasha--Avrohom and Lot.  In comparing the two acts of Hachnosas Orchim, a person may think that the act of Lot was much greater because the Mesiras Nefesh of Lot was seemingly outstanding--knowingly putting his life and the life of his family in danger by bringing guests into his home in the face of the people of Sedom.  Nevertheless, we see from the Torah’s detail of Avrohom’s Chesed, and how Chazal learn and derive lessons from it, that Avrohom’s Chesed was oh so much greater.  Why?  What made Avrohom Avinu’s Chesed more elevated?  It is said in the name of the Bais HaLevi that Lot was doing Hachnosas Orchim to angels--and he knew it.  Even with Mesiras Nefesh--this cannot compare to the Hachnosas Orchim that Avrohom Avinu showed to simple wayfarers--even if it was without risking his life to do so. 


Remember--this is the way of Avrohom Avinu, this is our legacy! 


D.  One additional note:  Chazal (Shabbos 127A) teach that Hachnosas Orchim is greater than Kabalas P’nei HaShechinah--as we see that Avrohom Avinu interrupted his speaking to Hashem in order to greet the strangers. Chazal do not sayGadol Hachnosas Orei’ach YoserMiKabalas Pinei HaShechinah--that it is greater to bring in one guest than to greet the Shechinah--rather, it is Hachnosas Orchim--in the plural--the bringing in guests as a way of life that is greater.  When one has established Chesed as his way of living, as a life goal and a life love; when one has established his life as an open heart to others--then that is greater than the one time greeting of the Shechinah.  One can and should by no means take the greeting of the Shechina lightly.  However, when it is for the purpose of actually fulfilling what Hashem wants from him in life--a life role and goal of giving--then one can and should interrupt everything else--including greeting the Shechinah itself--to fulfill it!



17 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: Rashi teaches that the fifth city that was to be destroyed together with Sedom, Amora, Adma and Tzevoyim was the city of Tzo’ar. It was not destroyed in the end because it was one year newer than the other four, and accordingly it was ruled innocent--just one year can be the difference between total destruction and total salvation! Indeed, we find Tzo’ar mentioned again in Parashas Vezos HaBeracha (Devorim 34:3)--as a city that Moshe Rabbeinu was shown as part and parcel of Eretz Yisrael! Our actions this year--just this one year--can bring about our salvation. Let us do our utmost to make it happen!



TAKING THE ELEVATOR: This week’s Parasha contains the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked whether one should take the stairs rather than take an elevator when going to visit one who is ill--for one is then exerting himself to a greater extent, and doing a Mitzvah with each step.  He responded that if it would involve bittul Torah, one should take the elevator.  [Hakhel Note:  The question teaches the great importance of Bikur Cholim on the one hand--and the great importance of Talmud Torah on the other!]  



A GREAT INSTRUCTION IN BIKUR CHOLIM: Chazal (Pesachim 118B) teach us that when Rebbi Yishmoel B’ R’ Yossi was ill, Rebbi Yehudah HaNossi asked of him to relate “two or three teachings in the name of your father.” At first glance, one would think that Rebbi asked for these teachings, so that if c’v Rebbi Yishmoel would leave this world because of the illness, the teachings would be left behind and known. However, we may suggest that the reason Rebbi asked Rebbi Yishmoel for these teachings when he was ill was to help heal him. As we know, the Torah teaches that the reward for honoring one’s parents is Arichus Yomim--length of days. By Rebbi Yishmoel relating teachings in the name of his father, he was fulfilling the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av--and could therefore be zoche to Arichus Yomim--being healed from his illness--and having length of days! The lesson to us would be that if and when possible, cause the person who is ill to perform the Mitzvah of Kibbud Av VaEim--and hopefully the Arichus Yomim will come!





A. Erev Shabbos Children’s Alert Reminders from Hatzalah:


1.                  Consult a Rav concerning where to light Shabbos candles when young children are present.

2.                  Never leave children unattended with burning candles.

3.                  After lighting candles have someone place matches securely away.

4.                  Place the spout of a hot water urn away from counter edge.  Do not use an extension cord or leave it within child’s reach.

5.                  Children should not be in the kitchen while preparations for Shabbos are being made.

6.                  Start Shabbos preparations early. Last minutes rushing causes hazardous and hectic             situations.

7.                  Never hold a child while drinking hot liquids.

8.                  Take all phones off the hook before bathing children.

9.                  Have all necessary equipment with you before putting your child in a bath.

10.             Never, under any circumstances, leave a child alone in the tub-not even for a moment! Take the child with you!


B. We provide the following Halachos relating to hotza’ah--carrying on Shabbos:


1. If one’s coat or jacket has a loop which is used to hang it on a hook and the loop is ripped, the Chazon Ish rules that if one intended to fix it, it would be assur to walk out with the jacket or coat on Shabbos. However, if one has decided that he will not fix it, then it would be batel to the coat, and one could walk out with the coat on Shabbos. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Z’tl, adds that if one could fix the broken loop with a safety pin, then it is considered usable on Shabbos and is batel to the beged, and it is permitted to walk out with it on Shabbos (SA OC ibid., Dirshu Note 101).


2. With respect to reserve buttons on his shirt or jacket, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Z’tl, rules that they are not considered to be a masui, and it is permitted to walk out with them attached to one’s garment on Shabbos because that is their place, and they are specifically sewn there for that purpose--so that they will be available whenever necessary. The reserve buttons are not similar to the broken and unusable loop (described in the last paragraph), as the buttons are only intended to perhaps be used in a different place on the garment in the future. HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, and HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, both agree. (ibid., Note 102)


3. Going out with a hat which could blow off in the wind is problematic. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Z’tl, rules that the hat must be on firmly enough so that when going out it will stay on one’s head if an average wind would blow in that place and at that time of year --whether or not a wind is actually blowing at that time. If, in fact, one goes out when a strong (greater than average) wind is blowing, the hat must be on so firmly, that it will not blow off even in the strong wind (ibid., Dirshu Note 107)


4. A children’s winter coat may have gloves attached to the sleeves. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Z’tl, rules that a child cannot walk out with the gloves attached without his hands inside of them--for the gloves are not considered a part of the sleeves, and would be considered a masui, unless they are being worn (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 201, Dirshu Note 95).


5. Finally, can one wear a gartel out of shul to his home on Shabbos? HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, rules that one can simply not place it over his regular belt, but one can wear it on the outside of his jacket where it has some utility. The Az Nidbiru (HaRav Binyomin Zilber, Z’tl), rules that even this is not permitted. If, however, one is wearing a beketsche around which a gartel is usually worn, the Az Nidbiru would agree that this should be mutar. On the other hand, the Minchas Yitzchok rules that since a gartel is considered to be a tachshit during davening for one who davens with it, it would also be a tachshit after davening as well--and accordingly, one could wear it outside even over his belt, and need not wear it over his jacket. The Minchas Yitzchok does, however, write that one can be machmir on himself in this area. (ibid., 301, Dirshu Note 89) 





A.  Although there are several answers to the question as to why Avrohom Avinu sought advice from Aner, Eshkol, and Mamrei on how to perform the Mitzvah of Milah described in last week’s Parasha, there is a beautiful Mussar thought from the Shelah HaKadosh.  The Shelah writes that Avrohom Avinu wanted to teach us all that a person should not perform a Mitzvah quickly and without thinking, based on his own intuition and personal intellect--but wherever possible one should speak to others about possible ways to perform and better accomplish the goal.  Sometimes, one can even learn from those on levels below him, and all insights are important.  In fact, according to the Midrash, Mamrei told Avrohom how he felt the Mitzvah could be performed with greater Hiddur, and was therefore Zoche for the Shechina to appear to Avrohom Avinu in the Plains of Mamrei,” as described at the outset of the Parasha!


B.  The Parasha teaches that as soon as Avrohom Avinu saw the Malochim approaching, “Vayaratz Likrasam--he ran to greet them.”  How could a 100 year old man who had just gone through a Bris Milah run to them?  Moreover, was it not Refoel, one of the three strangers coming, who was coming to heal him?  Finally, why did he need to be healed if he was already able to run to greet them--why was Refoel coming at all?  Some learn that once Avrohom Avinu saw Refoel he became healed immediately and was thus able to run towards them.  This serves as a reminder to us all that no medication or treatment, no therapy or regimen can or will be successful unless it is infused with Hashem’s direction and force to heal.  If Hashem willed it, it would not be the tablet that healed, but simply looking at the tablet that would heal.  When we recite the known Tefillos before taking medicine or before going to the doctor we should recognize that the Tefillah is more of the “Ikar” than the tablet, the shot, or the recommended advice to be followed!


C.  When Avrohom Avinu greeted his guests, he begged them not to leave without resting, and having something to eat and drink.  Why did Avrohom Avinu have to beg them--after all wasn’t he doing them a great favor--helping them on an extraordinary hot day?!  The Ba’alei Mussar explain that there is life-guiding advice here.  When helping another, one must do his utmost to make them feel not that you are doing them a favor, but that they are doing you a favor (in some way).  Additionally, one should not honor or glorify himself over the deed that he is performing.  We especially note that Avrohom Avinu begged the guests from the outset, and did not have to even respond to any initial expression of thanks with, “No, No, you are doing me a favor”--so that even ab initio the Chesed was pristine.  Hakhel Note:  This may not always be easy, but let us take Chizuk from Avrohom Avinu--a 100 year old man on the third day of his Bris Milah expressing his plea to three young and healthy strangers, whom he had never seen before and whom he would ostensibly never see again. 


D.   Chazal teach that although Avrohom Avinu worked so laboriously to feed and wait-on his guests, because Avrohom sent Yishmoel his son to bring the water to his guests, Hashem also sent us the gift of water through a Shaliach in the desert.  What was wrong with training Yishmoel in this task--after all was he not “the next generation”?  HaRav Moshe Feinstein, Z’tl, answers that the best training for the next generation--even more than having them do something themselves--is for them to watch you perform the Mitzvah--and perform it properly.  Just as the image of Yaakov Avinu remained with Yosef, and prevented him from sinning, so too will the picture of Chesed be ever imprinted in the follower’s mind--to reflect upon, to replicate, and to emulate--when the time comes…and it is really their turn!


E.  Hashem praised Avrohom Avinu with the words “Ki Yedati…for I have loved him because I know that he will command his children after him to follow in the way of Hashem performing charity and justice.”  HaRav Isser Zalmen Meltzer, Z’tl, asks how charity can come before justice.  After all, one cannot do charity without money which has not been earned justly.  Charity should not precede justice--it should succeed justice in the order of the Pasuk!  HaRav Meltzer answers that sometimes Tzedaka is justice itself.  If a person is desperately in need of our assistance; if it is a matter of Pikuach Nefesh, if it is a matter of sustaining lives, then we can no longer leave it as a well meaning Chesed or extra-curricular Tzedaka activity, but must instead consider it as part and parcel of our daily requirement to act with Mishpat--of doing that which is just and proper today.  This would mean that if there is a genuine Pidyon Shevuyim call, a real Hatzolos Nefashos request, a matter of Pikuach Nefesh in the community, it is not a nice or appropriate “add-on” to a person’s day to respond in some way--it is an integral fulfillment of your “Mishpat,” your doing the right thing, your properly serving Hashem on that day!


F.  Chazal bring that the reason Lot was saved from Sodom was because he remained silent and did not disclose anything to the Mitzri’im when they were told that Sara was Avrohom Avinu’s sister.  While this silence by Lot is admirable, it would seem that he had much greater zechusim to save him than this one act of silence.  Had he not just taken in guests at the risk of his own life, was he not willing to jeopardize the welfare of his own family members so as not to violate the trust placed in him by his guests...and had he not just baked Matzos in celebration of Pesach?!  Why do we have to go back so long, to such a seemingly insignificant event as simply not disclosing Sara’s additional relationship with Avrohom to the wicked authorities?  HaRav Aharon Kotler, Z’tl, answers that we learn from here how much more important it is in the eyes of Hashem if your act or deed is an expression of your own thoughts and efforts--your self-developedMadreiga Atzmis”--a level that you have reached or attained by yourself, rather than simply acting in a certain (even good) way because you are used to it, because your parents did it, or because you are fortunately in that kind of environment.  This point, HaRav Aharon continues, is incredibly true, even if the habitual or customary item is truly much greater--and even if it involves actual Mesirus Nefesh-in its performance.  Lot’s Hachnosas Orchim was par for the course, expected, and ordinary--in spite of the adversity and danger, because it was something that he had learned in his youth from Avrohom Avinu, and was something that simply had to be done and get done.  Developing one’s own area or areas of growth in Avodas Hashem is especially treasured by Hashem.  Putting it in further perspective--in Lot’s case--and B’Ezras Hashem in ours--it actually planted the seeds for Moshiach.  Tread new ground, develop your own new path beyond that which you are used to and is expected of you--for this is your best measure of greatness!


G.  We now move on to the second part of Lot’s salvation--after he escapes Sedom.  At this point, we learn that Lot accomplishes something that even Avrohom Avinu could not accomplish.  Although Avrohom davened for each one of the five cities to be saved, Hashem advised him that there was an insufficient number of Tzadikim in any city for the city to be saved.  However, we find that Lot requested that he be saved in the city of Tzoar --and he was, together with the entire city!  How was Lot, the recalcitrant nephew, able to save a city that his incomparable Rebbe could not?


HaRav Yecheskel Levenstein, Z’tl, derives two essential lessons from this.  First, we see how much more effective it is for the affected person to daven for himself than for a third party (no matter how great) to daven for him.  Here, Lot was asking for his life to be spared.  No matter how genuine and sincere the entireties of Avrohom  Avinu were, nothing can match the depths of someone pleading for his own life.  No one can act on your behalf more than you and you alone.   Of course, one should always ask a Talmid Chacham to daven for him, but this cannot replace or substitute for one davening for himself.


The second great lesson teaches us the extent of Hakaras Hatov that one must demonstrate if someone has even attempted to do good towards them.  Lot showed hospitality to the Malochim (who really didn’t need it), and their expression of Hakaras HaTov went to the degree of saving an entire city in order to save Lot.  Similarly, HaRav Daniel of Kelm, Z’tl, HY’D, the last Rosh Yeshiva of Kelm, explained that Elisha HaNavi was actually bound by his Hakoras Hatov to the Isha HaShunamis, to go to the extent of bringing her son back to the living--the greatest of miracles possible.


Thus, within one event, we learn vital lessons both on a Bein Adam LaMakom, and a Bein Adam L’Chaveiro, level.  In Bein Adam LaMakom--establish your own personal relationship with Hashem in Tefillah because no one can daven better for yourself than you.  Work on it, because no one can as you can.  On a Bein Odom L’Chaveiro level, make sure that you constantly and unwaveringly demonstrate your Hakaras Hatov for the many kindnesses you receive from those around you.  


H.  The Zohar writes of the goodness that Hashem bestows upon those who are worthy:  When a person needs Zechusim in a time of Din, Hashem may provide him with the opportunity for a Zechus--such as a poor person at his door.  Through the act of Chesed, the person’s life can then be spared in the time of judgment, for Hashem will leave a protective mark upon him.  Lot was saved from the punishment of Sedom because, the Pasuk records, “Vayizkor Elokim Es Avrohom”--because of the Chesed that Avrohom Avinu, who would have been hurt by Lot’s passing performed for the Malochim on that great and fateful day.  Hakhel Note:  The rest is eternal history.  As a result of Lot’s rescue, Moav was born, from whom will come forth Moshiach--all dating back to the guests at Avrohom Avinu’s door. 


I.  Avrohom Avinu davened for the people of Sedom. Chazal teach that a person should not daven for Reshaim to be taken away from this world, for if Hashem had removed Terach when he worshipped idols, Avrohom Avinu would not have been born…(and we know what would have happened to the world!)  Furthermore, Chazal teach that it is a Mitzvah to be Mispallel for Reshaim to do Teshuva-- so that they do not have to enter Gehenoim.  See, for example, Dovid Hamelech’s entreaties for the Reshaim who wronged him in his moving words in Tehillim (35:13).  Let us take the lesson home every day--having this in mind in Hashiveinu, and in our private Tefillos!


J.  The Shelah HaKadosh writes that from the Akeidas Yitzchok we all can take a practical lesson:  Avrohom Avinu was mevatel his ratzon for the ratzon of Hashem--he broke his desire, he gave of himself, he went against his grain--all because he knew that Hashem wanted otherwise.  When a person encounters a particular aveirah or Mitzvah, he should think that perhaps Hashem is testing me, just as he tested Avrohom Avinu.  With Hashem on his mind in this way, the Shelah concludes, a person will be successful in the tests of his life. What life-bearing advice!




1.                  Here is a good thought to keep in mind: “Zechus Kadima La’asos Tova L’mi She’asa Imcha Ra’ah”--one should try to make it a priority to do Chesed to those who have not performed Chesed with you--and to the contrary may have even hurt you.  You are thereby raising the bar with none other than yourself!


2.                   The Sefer Pele Yoetz writes that when Dovid HaMelech writes that “Olam Chesed Yiboneh--the world is built on Chesed” (Tehillim 89:23)--it does not mean that one must perform incredible feats, or spend excessive amounts.  Rather, the Pele Yoetz advises, that one also performs a Mitzvah De’oraysa when opening the door for one who is knocking, making change for someone, or simply extending a hand when needed.  One’s thought and focus simply has to be in the right place.


3.                  The following story was related to us by one of our readers (a Rav).  He had the honor of driving HaRav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Shlita from Philadelphia to another city to give a Shiur.  When stopping off for gas along the way, the driver asked the gas station attendant to check the oil.  It was pouring rain.  The attendant, who could hardly speak English, lifted the hood and motioned that he would need a minute to do something else first.  Upon hearing this, the driver told HaRav Kamenetsky that he was going to move the car underneath the station overhang, so that the exposed engine and wires would not get wet.  HaRav Kamenetsky immediately turned to him and said “No, no…you should move the car under the overhang so that the attendant does not get wet!”


4.                  As we have noted in the past, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, z’tl would urge people to perform a private Chesed--i.e., a Chesed that others did not know about--every day.  


5.                  The Chofetz Chaim in his Sefer Ahavas Chesed writes that one must love Chesed (as in the name of his Sefer), and not act out of a feeling of pressure (that person is so desperate for my help, how could I say no) or because he is required to do so.  If one loves Chesed, the Chofetz Chaim writes, he will search for ways and means to do good to his fellow man on his own, just as a father seeks to help his son even if he has not been asked for it.  Moreover, when a person feels a love for this mitzvah, he will motivate, encourage, inspire and arouse others to become engaged in similar and even different acts of Chesed as well.


6.                  Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, Shlita, teaches that a Ba’al Chessed is not necessarily someone who has money at all, but who is someone who sees the need and acts upon it.  For instance, he not only says “Assusa”, “Gezhuntheit” etc. when someone sneezes--but also pushes over the box of tissues.  Rabbi Weiss related a telling incident which had occurred to him personally. He was running back to the supermarket to return a shopping cart, after having done some last-minute shopping for Shabbos.  He saw a non-Jewish woman walking towards the supermarket and he said to her “Here is a cart”, and she responded “I don’t need it”, even though, she was walking towards the supermarket anyway, and his rush to get it back was obvious.  A Ba’al Chessed would have perceived the obvious the need, and whether or not he needed the cart--and most certainly if he was going in that direction--would have returned the cart--and even offered to do so without even being asked.  In order to train his young children in this area, Rabbi Weiss made a point of giving them extra snacks or drinks and told them to give it privately to someone else who did not bring snack that day.  We can apply this extremely significant Middah in many ways--in the most extraordinary and most ordinary of situations! 



A BIT DEEPER: If one delves a bit deeper into the Parashios describing the great Midos and conduct of Avrohom Avinu, he may have a perplexing question: On the one hand, Avrohom Avinu suspects Paroh, Avimelech, and Efron of dishonesty, and at least in the cases of Paroh and Avimelech, possible retzicha and ni’uf. Yet, on the other hand, Avrohom Avinu greets and treats royally people who appear to be idol-worshipping arabs, davens for the wicked people of Sedom to be saved, makes a pact with Avimelech even after what Avimelech had done, and sets up an Aishel in Be’er Sheva to give free food, drink and lodging to nomadic and other wayfarers. Does not this behavior seem contradictory--on the one hand, understanding the evil ways of the people around him, and dealing with them appropriately, without flattery and without compromise--and on the other hand, treating people so different from him with great respect, dignity and kindness. HaRav Ezriel Erlanger, Shlita, explains that this is truly not contradictory behavior at all. Avrohom Avinu understood that man has within him both tov and rah. Avrohom was not born a Malach--he too worked to restrain and overcome the evil within him. It is for this reason--from his own personal experience--that he believed in people. Yes--bad can go very far--but within the very same person, the good can overcome it and change the die-hard Rasha into a true Tzaddik. It is our duty, Avrohom Avinu realized--not only to help ourselves conquer the evil within us and replace it with good--but to help others--who have that very same potential, as well! Everyone can ask himself--‘when will my deeds reach the deeds of my forefathers?’...and everyone is capable of answering the question--successfully!



16 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: Rashi teaches that the Malach inquired of Avraham as to where Sara Imeinu was so that Avraham would realize and respond that she was inside--in the tent: “Kedei Lechavevah Ahl Ba’alah--which would cause Avraham to cherish Sara Imeinu for her tzniyus.” This is a great lesson for us--no matter what the age--Hava’as Shalom Bein Ish LeIshto, bringing peace between husband and wife--should be a great goal of everyone! 



YAHRZEIT OF HARAV SCHACH, Z’TL:  Today, 16 Marcheshvan, is the Eighteenth Yahrzeit of HaRav Schach, Z’tl (HaRav Elazar Menachem Mann B’R’ Ezriel).  It is well known that Rav Schach wrote in his Tzava’a that anyone who learned from him, any of his ‘talmidim’ who gained from him either in Torah, Yiras Hashem, or Midos, should do Chesed with him and learn a Mishna or a Machshava of Mussar, and that in turn, Rav Schach will do what he can to be Meiltiz Tov for those who do so. On this note, we provide the following teaching of HaRav Schach on this week’s Parasha: Chazal (Shabbos 127 A) teach that welcoming guests is greater than greeting the Shechina, as we see from Avrohom Avinu in the beginning of this week’s Parasha-- as he left his audience with Hashem in order to greet the wayfarers.  How could this be, Rav Schach asks?  After all, does not the Mesilas Yesharim teach that the whole goal of life is to come closer to the Shechina?!  Rav Schach explains that Avrohom Avinu was initially only standing in front of Hashem.  By running to greet the potential guests, he was doing better than ‘merely’ standing in front of the Shechina--for he was emulating the Shechina with his act of Chesed, thereby binding and becoming one (Kevayachol) with Hashem, rather than Hashem standing only in front of him.


Hakhel Note: Of the Thirteen Attributes of Hashem that we are to emulate, two of them involve Chesed--’Rav Chesed’ and ‘Notzer Chesed’. If one would think about it from a parent-child perspective, a parent would have much greater Nachas from the child doing what the parent does--rather than the child simply being together with him in his presence! 


We also provide two famous vignettes from the Sefer Conversations on the Life of Rav Schach, compiled by HaRav Asher Bergman, Shlita:


1. “Rav Schach recalled from the days of his youth how the Alter of Slobodka, Z’tl (Rav Noson Zvi Finkel) used to instill this fear within the bachurim - the dread of am-ha’aratzus - as he would urge the boys to learn seriously, saying, “If you don’t take care, you will become am ha’aratzim! Go learn!” “When the Alter said these words to us,” Rav Schach related, “we felt in our very bones that this would be the worst catastrophe that could possibly occur to us--that we should become am ha’aratzim, and lose out on the essence of life. Whoever heard the Alter issue this stern warning with his trembling voice, ‘You will be am ha’aratzim!’ did not require any further musar shmuz That person immediately and clearly understood the pathetic tragedy of a person fated to waste his life as an am ha’aretz, with no possibility of gaining spiritual stimulation or satisfaction in life.”


2. “Rav Schach would often encourage avrechim to become involved in teaching Torah to younger students in both junior and senior yeshivos. The reason, aside from the tremendous independent value of spreading Torah knowledge, is that developing such a relationship and bond with younger students is beneficial for the older Talmud scholar himself, in that it keeps him refreshed and invigorated. Rav Schach expressed a similar thought in a different matter as well. A tragic incident occurred in which both parents of a particular family had been killed, presenting the question of what should be done with the orphans, who had suddenly become bereft of a father and a mother. The children’s grandmother was interested in taking upon herself the task of raising them, and was willing to dedicate herself to this difficult job with all her heart and soul. Deep down, however, she had doubts as to whether it was beneficial for the children to grow up their whole lives raised by an “old grandmother.” The woman approached Rav Schach for advice, and as soon as he heard about her reservations, he told her, “Whoever is in the company of young people and constantly deals with them, himself remains young! You do not have to worry about becoming an ‘old grandmother’ in such a situation!”






1. A student of the Slobodka Yeshiva was walking down the street, carrying an uncovered plate of food to a fellow student who was ill. When he noticed Rabbi Isaac Sher, the Rosh Hayeshiva, coming, he felt embarrassed and tried to hide the plate under his jacket. He thought that the Rosh Hayeshiva would consider it beneath the student’s dignity to carry an uncovered plate of food in the street. Perceiving his student’s plight, Rabbi Sher called out, “You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Carrying food to an ill person is similar to carrying a lulav and esrog, which everyone carries in the street during Sukkos!” (Marbitzai Torah Umussar, vol. 2, p. 258-9)


2. One Rosh Hashanah, the Chazon Ish gave two unusual orders: not to hold the usual recess between Shacharis and the blowing of the shofar, and that the shofar be blown without previously reciting Lamenatzaiach Livnai Korach Mizmor seven times, as is the common practice. The people in Shul were all puzzled by the Chazon Ishs requests. Soon afterwards, they discovered the reason for the unconventional procedure. The Chazon Ish had heard a son say to his father, “Papa, you have a weak heart. Please eat something.” But the father refused, saying that it was his custom not to eat before he heard the shofar. The Chazon Ish wanted to enable the man with the weak heart to eat as soon as possible, and therefore he shortened the davening. (Biography of Chazon Ish, p. 113) Hakhel Note: The Minhag HaG’ra is not to recite Lamenatzaiach in any event.


3. In the European town of Pressnitz, there lived a wealthy man named Reb Hirsch Yervitz, brother-in-law of the Chasam Sofer. He would invite to his home all the poor travelers who were in that city for Shabbos. These needy people were always placed to the left and right of Reb Hirsch, who sat at the head of the table. A new maid was once hired at the Yervitz household. Unaware of Reb Hirsch’s custom, she set places for the poor at the far end of the Shabbos table. Arriving home from Shul with his guests, he was momentarily disturbed at the seating arrangements. Not wishing to embarrass either the maid or his guests, he quickly picked up his becher, challos, and setting, and put them at the end of the table, making the end of the table the head. (The Story of the Chasam Sofer, p. 31-2)


4. Rabbi Chayim Soloveitchik of Brisk had a warm and generous heart, and people who were troubled often turned to him as a source of comfort. Once, a mentally unbalanced man came to speak to Rav Chayim. The man took offense at something Rav Chayim said, and immediately left his house in anger. Minutes later, Rabbi Yecheskel Abramsky entered Rav Chayim’s house, and found him very worried and sweating profusely. “What happened?” asked Rabbi Abramsky with alarm:”I offended a person who is not able to forgive me” replied Rav Chayim. (Dmuyos Hod, vol. 2, p. 82-3)



15 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT:  In last week’s Parasha we find the name of Hashem ‘Shakai’ mentioned for the first time.  As Chazal teach, this Name refers to: “Ani Hu She’amar L’Olom Shyehei Dai--I was the One Who told the world to stop from further creation.”  HaRav Boruch HaLevi Epstein, Z’tl, in his Sefer ‘Torah Temimah’ asks why stopping the process of creation deserves that a name of Hashem be called after it.  After all, wouldn’t it have been fantastic to have even more wonders in the world?!  He answers that Hashem, only because of His great beneficence stopped the world from further creation --for if He had allowed creation to go further, man would have had nothing more to do or accomplish in this world.  Our existence would have been an insignificant, non-meaningful, ‘nahama dechisufa’, one.  Accordingly, the Name, Shakai, is a great praise of ours to Hashem-- for it thanks Hashem for giving our lives meaning and purpose-- to complete the world in a way that only each and every one of us can!


Hakhel Note: Based upon this wonderful explanation, we can understand why, of all of the names of Hashem that could possibly greet us as we go from room to room in our homes, buildings and institutions, it is that name --’Shakai’-- on every doorpost--as if to remind us as we constantly come and go to reach our Shleimus--and, by doing your part, helping the whole world achieve its Shleimus as well!



CHAZARAS HASHATZ:  The Yesod V’Shoresh Ha’avodah (5:6) writes in the name of the Sefer Avudraham that when one listens carefully to the words of Chazaras HaShatz in Shemone Esrei, it is considered as if he davened a second time.  Moreover, he continues, that if one is careful to answer Amen after each Bracha of the Shatz, it is as if he was Mispallel three times(!).


There are several important lessons that can be learned from this teaching, among them:


1.  The importance of listening (and not being distracted, learning, saying Tehillim, or doing anything else during Chazaras HaShatz)--Shome’a Ke’oneh is an important Halachic concept. Perhaps the best way to listen is to follow word by word in the siddur (some keep their finger on the word);


2.  The importance of answering ‘Amen’ (and the utter folly of failing to do so)—just one word meaningfully recited provides you with an entire Shemone Esrei; and


3.  The power of a woman’s prayer.  After all, Chazal teach that women are as obligated in Tefillah as men-- ‘for they too need rachamim-- require mercy’.  As we know, women do not daven tefillah b’tzibbur on a daily basis.  Accordingly, we may conclude that a woman’s prayer has the power of the three Tefillos that the man must acquire through a pristine Chazaras HaShatz! 



LOVING CHESED:  As Parashas Vayeirah provides us with the foundations of the Torah concept of Chesed, we provide the following important derivative teachings from the Sefer Loving Kindness, based on the Sefer Ahavas Chesed (Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation; Artscroll),from the ‘Step By Step’ portion of the work, which contains so much practical advice. We highly recommend the Sefer’s study on a daily basis-it is divided into 178 short daily segments:


1.  When an opportunity for Chesed comes my way, I will try to think of the recipient as a beloved member of my family.


2.  In doing a kind act, no matter how small, I will focus on the fact that this small gesture is an essential support for the world.


3.  The next time my mind defaults to the thought, ‘Someone else will probably take care of it,’ I will motivate myself to be that ‘someone else.’


4. Today, I will bli neder begin to give charity on a daily basis--through a pushka, in Shul or by any other accessible means--but it is part of my daily schedule, just as eating, sleeping, davening and saying Tehillim....


5.  The next time a person who I don’t particularly hold in high regard is in need of help, I will try to offer whatever help I can.


6.  I will become more conscientious about returning borrowed items as soon as I have finished with them.


7.  In my future dealings with guests, I will attempt to project myself into their situation so that I can accurately gauge their needs.


8.  When I have the urge to put off an act of kindness, I will remember that the opportunity may never be available again.


9.  I will perform chesed and give tzedaka in a generous manner; I will try to rely less on material possessions for a sense of security. 


10.  The next time someone comes to me with a problem, I will try to focus more fully on what they are saying and how they are feeling.


11.  The next time I hear of someone’s difficulties, I will daven to Hashem for help.


Hakhel Note:  Please review the above items--they are precious, enlightening and enriching!



YAHRZEIT OF THE CHAZON ISH: Today is the Yahrzeit of the Chazon Ish (R’ Avrohom Yeshaya B’R’ Shmarya Yosef) Z’tl, whose Tefillah for one to recite on behalf of his son we had provided in yesterday’s Bulletin, and whose profound impact on our generation continues to echo around the world.  The following thoughts of the Chazon Ish are excerpted from Divrei Siach, a beautiful compilation by Rabbi Yitzchok Goldshtaff, Shlita:


1. HaRav Nissim Karelitz, Z’tl, reports that the Chazon Ish told him that when we say that the world exists because Torah is being studied every minute somewhere--it also includes the sleep of Talmidei Chachomim and Lomdei Torah who do so in order to be able to continue to learn!


2. The Chazon Ish told people who asked him whether they should move to Bnei Brak not to do so--because he wanted there to be Yiddishkeit everywhere!


3. HaRav Gershon Edelstein, Shlita, reports that the Chazon Ish told him that one should be makpid to eat bread at Melaveh Malka--and not be Yotzei with Mezonos.


4. In instructing bachurim, the Chazon Ish would advise them to learn over a sugyah more quickly before studying it be’iyun. After completing a perek, he recommended reviewing it seven times, without Rashi or Tosfos. He said that if one initially learned the Perek with Rashi and Tosfos and then reviewed it this way seven times, he would remember the Rashi and Tosfos as well!


5. The Chazon Ish ruled that when davening for one who is ill, if one does not know the name of his mother, he can use the name of the father, and if one does not know the father’s name, he can use the name of the city.


6. The Chazon Ish writes that everyone has the mitzvah to perform “Bikur Cholim” upon himself, as well.  This means that he must take care of his body and use the most effective means possible for his personal health. See below for additional important points on the great Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim.


7.: The following thoughts of the Chazon Ish are from his nephew and close student, HaRav Chaim Kanievksy, Shlita, and are found at the end of Sefer Derech Sicha, Volume II:


A. The Chazon Ish advised HaRav Kanievsky that one need not take off of a Gemara the Sefer of an Acharon that was placed on top of it--but that one may not place his elbows on a Sefer!


B.  A Talmud Chochom did not want to engage in a Yissocher/Zevulun relationship in order not to lose reward from his Torah learning.  The Chazon Ish told him to do the will of Hashem, and not do something for the sake of reward. 


C.  When the Chazon Ish heard that the Chofetz Chaim wanted girls to study Torah SheBechsav and Ma’amarei Chazal, he happily responded--”I also said the same thing!”


D.  The Chazon Ish would stand before his older brother, based upon the Chazal that one must show respect to an older brother.


E.  In the area of Shidduchim, he advised that one check on the proposed Shidduch’s Yiras Shomayim--which is evidenced by how the person davens.  He also advised that if one asks an Adam Gadol a question about a Shidduch, his advice must be listened to.  It is said in his name that any girl who learns in Bais Yaakov today is considered a Bas Talmid Chochom.


F.  Just as Torah is a man’s antidote to fight the Yetzer Hara, Tzniyus is a woman’s antidote to fight the Yetzer Hara.

G.  Someone asked him if he could borrow funds even if he did not know how he could repay them, simply based on his bitachon that he would obtain the funds to repay. The Chazon Ish responded--only if you would lend funds to others based on the very same bitachon that he would obtain the funds to pay you back.

H. He ruled that if one received a loan from a Gemach, when repaying the loan he should not give additional money as a donation--for this would be Ribbis D’Oraisah. 


I.  He said that Anavah means that a person knows the truth about his knowledge and talents--but recognizes that he does not deserve anything because of it. 


J.  He held that if by mistake one overrode his stop (even if he was involved in learning), he must pay the extra fare involved.


K. Once someone referred to a friend as a “yekke”, not meaning to insult him.  The Chazon Ish told him that he was mechaneh shaim laichaveiro--he is improperly referring to his friend by a nickname, even if he didn’t intend to insult him.


L.  He would say that the way to avoid forgetfulness--is to do it immediately! Hakhel Note: Remember--this is the advice of a Gadol--so always keep it in mind!



14 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: There is popular adage in Eretz Yisrael:  “Lifnei HaTefilah Ani Mispallel She’BeAis HaTefillah Ani Espallel!”--Before I daven, I daven that I will truly pray when I am davening!” Let us devote ourselves to kavannah in Shemone Esrei with renewed sincerity and vigor!



THE TEFILLAH OF THE CHAZON ISH: As tomorrow is the Yahrzeit of the Chazon Ish, we provide by the following link the famous short Tefillah that he composed for one to recite on behalf of his son - http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/TefillahChazonIsh.jpg



SHORT TEST: Which of the following phrases are not Ona’as Devorim?


1. Where is your Seichel?

2. Act your age

3. What’s with you?

4. Hel-lo!

5. Zei Gezunt


Hakhel Note: You can prepare your own test based upon the phrases you may otherwise say or hear!





In last week’s Parasha:


1. We find that Avrohom Avinu built a Mizbeach to Hashem, and then encountered a famine in Eretz Yisrael (Bereishis 12:8-10). Similarly, we later find that he built a Mizbeach to Hashem, and then immediately found himself at war with the superpowers of his time (Bereishis 13:18-14:1).  What lesson can we derive from the juxtaposition of building a Mizbeach to Hashem to an eis tzarah that followed? 


2. We also find the first mitzvah that Avrohom Avinu is actually commanded.  Yet, when a child comes of age, he is commanded in all 613 of the Mitzvos at once--imagine how much strength Avrohom Avinu’s acceptance of just one Mitzvah instilled within us! Why, however is a boy who comes of age referred to as  a ‘bar-mitzvah’--after all, even if the word ‘bar’ in Aramaic means ‘son’--doesn’t it also mean ‘outside’, or ‘to exclude’--we don’t want the boy to be outside or excluded from Mitzvos, chas veshalom! Why don’t we simply call him a ‘ben- mitzvah’?


Once again...we look forward to your thoughts!



THE SECRET OF UNITY: The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (12:2) provides a great lesson for us in the incredible effects of unity--or at least one’s own personal sincere attempts to obtain it:  “Before davening one should have especial kavannah to genuinely accept upon himself the Mitzvah of VeAhavta LeRayacha Komocha.  For when there is separation among K’lal Yisrael below, then there is no unity in the heavens either. Conversely, when we unite with our fellow Jews below, it causes the souls above to be united--and this oneness also allows our Tefillos to become united as they reach the heavens. When our Tefillos are united, they are pleasing to Hashem.


  Hakhel Note:  This demonstration of Bain Adam L’Chaveiro, then, directly branches to Bain Adam L’Makom--and produces huge gains--Bain Adam L’Atzmo!



ON BIKUR CHOLIM:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, relates that he once went to be Mevaker Choleh to his father-in-law, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, who had been ill. HaRav Elyashiv asked him--is there truly a chiyuv to travel from another city [i.e., from Bnei Brak to Yerushalayim] to perform the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. HaRav Chaim responded that Chazal teach that when one visits a person who is sick--Goreim Lo Sheyicheh--the visitor causes the sick person to live--and therefore, in his view, the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim applied inter-city as well!


As this week’s Parasha teaches of the primary importance of Bikur Cholim, as Hakadosh Baruch Hu visited Avraham Avinu after his bris, we provide the following additional reminders on Bikur Cholim:


1.      According to the Chochmas Adam (151:3) the ikar (main point) of Bikur Cholim is davening for the sick person while visiting him.  In fact, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (193:3) paskens that one has not fulfilled the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim if he visits, but does not daven to Hashem while there.  This is because the Shechina is present above the head of the sick person, and your tefillos are, k’viyachol, in front of the Shechina itself (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Dei’ah 335, Shach seif katan 3).  In your tefillah, you should ask for Hashem’s mercy for that particular choleh “B’soch Cholei Yisrael” (amongst the other sick of Israel), because, in the merit of the many, your tefillos will be better received (ibid., Shach seif katan 4).


2.  Bikur Cholim should not be performed when it is convenient for the visitor, but when it is best for the choleh.  As the halacha states, one should not visit in the first three hours of the day… the last three hours of the day…, etc. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 335:4).


3.  In addition to tefillah, there is a mitzvah to give the choleh ‘nachas ruach’ (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 193:3).  This does not mean that one should speak on and on, or even with witticisms.  Statements should as “You’ll now have to take that medicine for the rest of your life,” or “Next time, you’ll be more careful,” or even “How will this affect your life going forward?” may be equated with smacking a poor person across the face and knocking out a few teeth as you hand him a hundred dollars with a smile.


4.  One should try to tidy up and make the atmosphere more cheery for the choleh, if possible.  The Gemara (Nedarim 40A) relates that Rabbi Akiva himself swept and cleaned the floor for his sick student. It is no wonder, then, that one who acts wisely with the ill will himself be saved from ‘a bad day’ by Hashem (see Tehillim 41 and Gemara, Nedarim 40A).


5.  Finally, one should consider a choleh’s status after he leaves the hospital, and even after he returns to shul or to work.  The fact that he has somewhat healed does not necessarily mean that he is not suffering pain or is otherwise in distress.  One should continue to daven for, and inquire as to, a person’s welfare, until he is confident that the choleh has received his Refuah Shleimah!



IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITY: Living Kiddush Hashem is now offering a free weekly email. Below is the substance of week 1. To subscribe, contact livingkiddushhashem@gmail.com. For more information about Kiddush Hashem, please visit www.livingkiddushhashem.com.


Rabbi Shraga Freedman

Distributed with permission from ArtScroll/Mesorah

Chapter 1: The Ultimate Purpose


Every Jew’s Mission


Rabbi Shimon Schwab served as a rav in Germany in the months prior to the Holocaust. He once gave a speech that was misconstrued by some people as an insult to Hitler. Rabbi Schwab was arrested, interrogated, and then sent home to await trial. During the ensuing few weeks, he slept in his rabbinical garb every night. When questioned about the reason for his behavior, he replied that he was concerned that the Nazis might barge into his house at any moment and take him away for a public hanging—and it would be a chillul Hashem for him to be seen hanging publicly in his pajamas. More than he was frightened of death itself, Rabbi Schwab was terrified of creating a chillul Hashem (as told by Rav Yissochor Frand).


The mitzvah of kiddush Hashem (and its corollary, the prohibition to be mechallel shem shamayim) is a cornerstone of the avodas Hashem of every Jew. In fact, Rav Dessler writes (Michtav Meeliyahu, vol. 1 p.22) that kiddush Hashem is the essence of every mitzvah. It is a precept of paramount importance, and one that can be applicable in countless situations every day. Every one of our actions may have the effect of either raising or lowering other people’s awareness of Hashem and esteem for Him. It should be clear, then, that it is crucial for a person to weigh every one of his actions and calculate whether it will add to or detract from kavod shamayim. Rav Schwab’s example is merely one illustration of the importance our gedolim attach to being mekadesh shem shamayim and avoiding chillul Hashem. In another famous instance, Rabbi Moshe Sherer approached Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky with a dilemma. He wanted to solicit the aid of a powerful government official in order to save the life of a Jew behind the Iron Curtain, but he feared that the official might ask for a public show of support for something that was not in the spirit of the Torah. After considering the matter, Rav Yaakov ruled that the official should not be approached. One may transgress almost any prohibition to save a life, he explained, but not the prohibition of chillul Hashem (Torah Leaders, Artscroll).


The significance of the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem and the severity of chillul Hashem are revealed in numerous sources. The Rambam (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 5:4) writes that there is no one greater than a person who sacrifices his life for kiddush Hashem, and the Shelah (Sha’ar Ha’osios 1) states unequivocally that the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem is more precious than any other positive commandment. The grievous nature of a chillul Hashem is vividly depicted in Dovid HaMelech’s words (Tehillim 42:11), “B’retzach atzmosai charfuni tzorerai, b’omram eilai kol hayom ayeh elokecha,” which means, as the Radak explains, that when a Jew hears people ask “Ayeh elokecha” (“Where is your G-d”), the diminution of Hashem’s honor should be as painful to him as if he had been stabbed with a sword. The existence and honor of Hashem should be clear to every observer and should be eminently manifest in a Jew’s every word and action; if it is not, the Jew should be greatly pained by his failure to be mekadesh shem shamayim.


Why does this mitzvah occupy such a central position in our lives? In Shaarei Teshuvah (3:158), Rabbeinu Yonah sets forth a fundamental principle: the reason that Hashem selected the Jewish nation, elevated them above the rest of the nations of the world, and sanctified them with His Torah and mitzvos, is entirely so that they would fear Him and sanctify His name. In other words, kiddush Hashem is the raison d’etre of the Jewish people. Not only is it a mitzvah of great significance; it is the sum total of our mission on this world.


The fact that kiddush Hashem is the very purpose of our existence certainly helps us to understand this mitzvah’s overarching importance—but it also places a weighty responsibility on us. We cannot content ourselves with simply going about our normal routines, learning and davening and doing all the other things that a Jew is supposed to do, unless we also maintain our focus on the all-important goal of kiddush Hashem. A Jew must be constantly mindful of his conduct and see to it that even his smallest actions bring honor to Hashem, rather than evoking disrespect or derision, chas v’shalom. Even if a person spends his life immersed in talmud Torah, he must remain ever polite and respectful, in order to project an untarnished image of a Torah-true Jew that will bring honor to Hashem.


In Review: The mitzvah of kiddush Hashem is a mitzvah unlike any other. It is a general, overarching precept that encompasses the rest of the Torah and all of its mitzvos. The very purpose of the Torah and its commandments is kiddush Hashem; all of the other mitzvos pay a role in achieving that end and serve as tools for us to use to bring honor to Hashem. So while we, as Jews, serve Hashem by observing the Torah and its mitzvos, our overall mission is defined by the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem.



13 Marcheshvan

A TESHUVAH MOMENT:   Because the Yetzer Hara is a melech zakein u’kesil--an old and hoary king, we must ‘be smart’ and devise ways of dealing with his methods of deceit and entrapment. A Rav who does not live in the city itself advised us that whenever he must travel into the city, he is very much repulsed by what he sees and experiences--but, nevertheless finds that the Yetzer Hara is very much at work, pulling at one’s heart and at one’s eyes. When he does travel into the city, he has found what helps him deflect the allurements of the Yetzer Hara is to view the city as ‘captured’--and the unchaste or improperly behaving people that he meets there as individuals who have gone over to the side of and are collaborating with the enemy. One who is loyal will keep his distance and stay clear of them--for even if the city is captured--one can still maintain his dedication and resolve, his faithfulness and devotedness to the side of that which is true, good and right!





1. What do you do when you are the most awake? Some believe that they are ‘morning people’, others ‘afternoon people’, and yet others, ‘late night individuals’. In whatever manner a person views himself as, ask yourself what you usually dedicate your ‘most awake’ hours for--is it Torah and Ma’asim Tovim…or something else? Conversely, is your primary Torah-study time when falling asleep after eating dinner and taking care of matters at home…?


2. Should you ‘go behind his back ‘to help him’? Before doing so, ask yourself this question out-loud--and pensively--three times. If the answer is not pellucidly clear in your mind, consult with your Rav or Posek before doing so.



QUOTE OF THE DAY: Kedusha requires effort. If one does not pay attention to his actions, he will go downhill in the ordinary course. If one does not make the effort to come to davening on time, he will find himself coming to davening later (and later). If one does not consider learning more, he may lose a Chavrusa here, and a daily Mishna Seder there. If one is not proactive in performing Chesed, he will find himself doing less of it. Life needs sustenance not only by eating and sleeping, but by the conscious effort to improve spiritually. One must be diligent not get caught up with the rush of society and apparent daily stresses--and be sure to remind himself that he is a descendant of Yaakov Avinu--who was taught by Hashem to take steps up the very important ladder--of life!  [Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, Shlita, at a Hakhel Yarchei Kallah]



FROM A READER: Regarding Tzipisah L’Yeshuah I heard a nice thought. The Yeshuah can even mean our personal Yeshuah because that represents a small part of the Tzar HaShechina while we are still in galus. (For example, having the challenge of raising a child that is going off the derech can be compared to the Shechinah watching His children, K’lal Yisrael, wandering blindly in this long and dark galus.) In this context we can understand it as: “Did we truly believe, b’emunah shelaima, that the Yeshua to our personal tzara can come k’heref ayin--and that the Yeshua is coming straight from Hashem?!”



THINKING OF BLESSING:  One other important thought on Brachos--from last week’s Parasha.  Hashem tells Avrohom “VaAvarecha Mevarechecha--I will bless those who want to bless you.”  Since Hashem views someone who has had a Machshava Tova as if he had already performed it, it follows that one who even thinks of blessing Avrohom (and B’EH his descendants!) will be blessed by Hashem.  This has great ramifications, for not only will the blessing take place--but it will take place by one who has already been blessed by Hashem!



THE MEANING OF L’SHEIM SHOMAYIM: We provide the outstanding words of the Chassid Ya’avetz to Avos 5:2, as brought by HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, on last week’s Parasha:  We all know that the only reference to Avrohom Avinu being thrown into the fiery furnace are the Torah’s words “Ani Hashem Asher Hotzeisicha MeiUr Kasdim--I am Hashem Who took you out of Ur (fire), Kasdim.”  Why does the Torah not mention the great miracle of Avrohom’s salvation from the fire--and why doesn’t the Torah mention this tremendous challenge as one of Avrohom Avinu’s great Nisyonos over his belief in Hashem?  After all, at the Akeidah in this coming week’s Parasha, Avrohom was offering up his son--but in Ur Kasdim he was sacrificing himself, without any living descendants at that time?!  Moreover, the Nisayon of the Akeidah was in Avrohom’s older age by which time he had many students following in his path, and after he had already experienced the Bris Bain HaBisarim, and had received Hashem’s assurances of the continuity of his descendants.  At Ur Kasdim, however, Avrohom was still alone against the world, and was apparently not yet zoche to the Devar Hashem--yet he was moser nefesh to such a great extent--yet without any direct reference in the Torah!  The Chassid Ya’avetz answers that the nisayon of the Akeidah was due to the tzivui of Hashem, whereas at Ur Kasdim, Avrohom’s act was based upon his own knowledge, intellect and belief.  In a word, at Ur Kasdim Avrohom understood what he was doing and was willing to sacrifice himself because he knew it was the truth--just as a scholar or philosopher would be ready to have his life taken for what his mind told him was right and proper.  A Nisayon, however, is different.  It is to perform an act or do something L’Sheim Shomayim--even if one does not understand what he is doing or why--but simply and purely to fulfill the Mitzvah of Hashem.  Our success at a Nisayon raises our level of Deveikus BeHashem! Hakhel Note:  As we may go through our own individual Nisyonos, it may be important to keep this concept handy.





A.  Chazal (Avodah Zara 9A) teach that this world will exist for 6,000 years--with the middle 2,000 being described as “Torah,” and the final 2,000 being described as “Yemos HaMoshiach.”  Fascinatingly, Chazal teach that the middle 2,000 years of Torah began at the time of “Ve’Es HaNefesh Asher Asu BeCharan--at the time that Avrohom Avinu began to influence those around him to leave Avodah Zara and come close to Hashem.”  Chazal, then, do not describe the 2,000 years of “Torah” as beginning from when Avrohom Avinu began to study Torah and come close to Hashem himself, but rather from the time that he brought others close to Torah.  What a great lesson for his descendants!  The Era of Torah can only begin when it is valued enough to share it with others, and not merely keep it for oneself.  If one truly desires to demonstrate his feelings for Torah, the primacy and importance of Torah and Mitzvos in his life, then he will make it a point to go out of his way to relate a D’var Torah that has just moved or inspired him; he will help someone properly practice a Mitzvah or Halacha that he is obviously weak in; and/or arrange for a weekly study partner with an emphasis on Kiruv--either Kiruv Kerovim or Kiruv Rechokim.  Avrohom Avinu, Chazal show, is not only the Master of Chesed--he is the Master of Torah--and they both begin with the same Yesod, with the same foundation--sharing that which is easier to hold on to and keep to yourself--with others!


B.  The Pasuk teaches that Avrohom Avinu encamped to the west of the City of Ai and to the east of the City of Bais Kail.  [Note:  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, rules that the name of Hashem should not be mentioned when mentioning the City “Bais Kail”.]  Chazal (Sanhedrin 44B) teach that Avrohom Avinu encamped in this place in order to daven for his descendants whom he foresaw would have trouble with the people of Ai.  The lesson Chazal draw from this is that “LeOlam Yakdim Adam Tefillah LeTzara--a person should always daven before a Tzara takes place”--with the hope that the Tefilla will void the need for the Tzara.  We note that Chazal do not distinguish between ‘sizes’ of Tzara, and that the lesson applies to Tzaros of all kinds--both large and small.  For example, as we are now in a “changing weather” season, one can certainly daven to Hashem that he not get a cold, strep, or any virus, infection, or other illness which r’l seems to be more prevalent during these times.  Nothing is too big or too small for Hashem--we should be smart enough to recognize in advance that He is the Source of Everything--that He starts and stops, brings on and withholds, weakens, invigorates and reinvigorates, and can bring on pain, adjust it, and cure it.  Our ability to sincerely daven to Hashem in advance, demonstrating our Emunah and Bitachon, may obviate the need for symptoms, events, and occurrences which may have been otherwise necessary--but are no longer needed!


Additional Note:  There are, of course, other Tzaros to avoid besides sickness—terrorists and their threats, issues relating to shidduchim, marriage and parent-child relationships, parnassah and money....  We know to Whom to turn--let us take the lesson of Avrohom Avinu--and do what we can to help save ourselves, our people, and the world from pain and suffering, from difficulty and devastation--Tefillah is the preemptive strike that Hashem is looking for!


C.  The Pasuk records that, after Hagar conceived from Avrohom while Sarai had not, “Vateikal Gevirta Be’Eineha--Sarai became lowered in Hagar’s esteem.”  The Pasuk then records “VaTe’aneha Sarai--and Sarai dealt harshly with her, and Hagar fled.” (Bereishis 16:6).  If you have a moment, we would urge that you review a very short Ramban on these last words, and bring this great and important lesson with you wherever you may be--at work, out shopping, and most especially at home!



10 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: As incredible as it may sound, it is now 30 days since Yom Kippur, and 40 days since Rosh Hashanah! The halfway mark--will be coming sooner than we think….  It behooves each and every one of us at this time to take a few moments out to recall what our goals and aspirations were for the year, to consider what we have accomplished (now that we are in fact, a couple of weeks past Yom Tov), and to determine how we can better put ourselves in the right direction for the future.  Without wishing to sound intimidating, we intend to provide a similar awareness notification in another 40 days--so we ask that you plan to meet the challenge.


Additional Point:  In order to keep the special spirit of Yom Kippur throughout the year, as we have noted in the past, there are special people who count every ten days from Yom Kippur--and designate the day as ‘Asiri Kodesh’--a tenth day reserved or dedicated to more lofty conduct. Today, as the 10th day of Marcheshvan, is the third Asiri Kodesh since Yom Kippur.  A practical and effective way to activate and apply your Asiri Kodesh is by keeping on guard a bit more throughout the day--asking yourself--would I do this, say that, or even consider that, would I conduct myself in this manner, if today was Yom Kippur?  The Asiri Kodesh--a special opportunity to elevate yourself --together with others around the world!



THESE DAYS OF MARCHESHVAN:  The Luach Davar BeIto provides the following reminders to us relating to today--the tenth day of Marcheshvan, and tomorrow, the eleventh day of Marcheshvan:


A.  The Sefer Mo’ed Lechol Chai brings that Gad ben Yaakov was born today.  Gad is a Siman of Mazel (“Bah Gad--Bah Mazel Tov”, see Targum Yonasan)--and accordingly should be a day of Mazel Tov for one attempting to accomplish anything, for the zechus of Gad is with us the entire day.  Some have the custom today to read the Pesukim that relate to the birth of Gad, as well as the brachos that Gad received from Yaakov Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu. 


B. Today is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Dov Schwartzman, Z’tl.  The following is once again excerpted from In His Ways: The Life and Achievements of HaGaon Reb Dov Schwartzman, Z’tl, by Rabbi Shmuel Wittow, Shlita: “Reb Chaim Yehuda [a student], said that for a period of time he had a chavrusa with the Rosh Yeshiva before davening that began at 5:00 in the morning.  The first day he was surprised to see the Rosh Yeshiva close his Gemara at 6:30, as davening did not start until 7:00.  When he asked the Rosh Yeshiva to explain, Rav Schwartzman answered that he had a Kabbalah to do a Chesed before davening; so each morning he would take that portion of time to go home and prepare chocolate milk for his children’s breakfast.


C.  Tomorrow is, of course, the Yahrzeit of Rochel Imeinu.  The Imrei Emes related that when the leader of Nazi Germany yimach shemo vezichro attempted to enter Eretz Yisrael in the summer of 1942, great Tzaddikim went to daven at the Kever of Rochel Imeinu, and that Rochel Imeinu appeared to them and advised that the gezeirah against the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael had been nullified! 


Hakhel Note: The Pasuk in Yirmiyahu (31:14) writes that Rochel cried over the exile of her children and that Hashem, in turn, responded to Rochel that she need not cry further.


Most are familiar with the following famous incident:  HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, while once at Kever Rochel, was overheard to have said that although Hashem had instructed Rochel Imeinu not to cry, he, “Chaim,” was asking her to cry for her children.  The question is clear--if Hashem told Rochel Imeinu not to cry, how could HaRav Shmuelevitz--”Chaim”--seemingly go against this order and ask her to cry?


Some say, that HaRav Shmuelevitz himself answered the question by explaining that while a father (Hashem) could tell his daughter to calm down and not cry, a child (such as HaRav Shmuelevitz) could ask his mother to show a special care and concern for her children. A second explanation is given in the name of HaRav Moshe Aharon Stern, Z’tl, who teaches that Hashem, by telling Rochel that she didn’t have to cry, was actually inviting further supplication and tears.  HaRav Stern draws the parallel to Hashem’s response to the sin of the Golden Calf, where He tells Moshe Rabbeinu “Leave me alone and I will destroy them,” even though Moshe had not yet asked for mercy from Hashem for the Chait HaEigel (See Shemos 32:10 and Rashi there).


Related Note:  We had once received the following moving thoughts from a reader:   “When we speak about Rochel Imeinu, we say, ‘Kol B’ramah Nishma...Rochel Mivaka Al Baneha Ki Einenu...--a voice is heard on high...Rochel is crying about her children....’ The question is why is the term ‘mivaka--used?! Should not the Pasuk simply say: ‘Rochel Bocha--Rochel is crying’ because she is constantly crying for us to come out of Galus!  The answer could be that mivaka means that Rochel Imeinu is crying intensely hard--because we are not crying!  She is trying to get us to cry out of the pain of Galus because we seem to forget where we are.  What we have to do now is cry out to Hashem and beg and plead for Him to take us out!  Rochel wants us to cry, to feel uncomfortable in Galus.  If we don’t feel like we are in Galus and we don’t cry out to Hashem, then why should He take us out altogether?!  If we are fine where we are, then why should anything change?  The only way to get out is by asking for it!  If Rochel is crying for us on High (as we know that Hashem says that her tears are going to bring the Geulah) why not take out your Sefer Tehillim or use your own words to BEG Hashem to bring us out of Galus!  And THEN Hashem will be able to tell Rochel Imeinu, ‘Minee Koleich Mibechee V’einayich Midim’ah,’--Rochel, you can stop crying, because ‘V’shavu Banim Ligevulam,’ Bnei Yisrael will return to their boundaries.  May we all have the zechus to see these very words come true!” 


Final Note: Some have pointed to the fact that terrorists in Eretz Yisrael have attacked at Kever Rochel Imeinu, and at the Kever of her son, Yosef HaTzaddik--indicating an underlying fear among them of the arrival of Moshiach Ben Yosef. In turn, it may be suggested that the name of Yishmael does not mean that Hashem will listen to their cries--but to our cries from their terror. In the Selichos for BeHaB recited this past week, we pleaded: “Kalei Se’ir V’Chosno (Yishmael)--may our Tefillos be answered, and may we witness it in our day!





1.  The Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 320, seif katan 12) rules that if one is eating grapes or olives on Shabbos, he should put the entire grape or olive into his mouth and chew it then, rather than suck on it when it is only partially in his mouth, because of issues relating to Sechita on Shabbos.


2.  Pomegranate juice has become a popular health food.  Since it may be obvious that you are taking it for health reasons--is it permissible to take on Shabbos?  We believe that one can draw the appropriate response to this question from the following excerpt from Halachos of Refuah on Shabbos by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita: “One may not take an enema on Shabbos.  Even though taking an enema does not necessarily involve medicine, nevertheless, since it looks like a therapeutic procedure, and there are medicines for constipation, if it were permitted, people might mistakenly assume that taking medicines is also permitted.   According to some Poskim, one may use plain water (without any additives) as an enema for constipation.  However, if the constipation is so severe that one feels weak all over, or one feels so incapacitated that he cannot function, he is permitted to use any type of enema, but should insert it by way of shinui.  More often than not, constipation is not incapacitating, in which case an enema may not be taken.  Nevertheless, if one can cure his constipation by taking a long walk, or by eating regular foods that are natural laxatives, such as stewed prunes, prune juice, licorice tea, or high-fiber cereal he may do so, since these are activities of healthy people, and would not be confused with taking medicine.”


3. The following is an inspirational thought from the Hilchos Shabbos Imitative, L’Zechus Refuah Sheleimah L’Chaya Malka Bas Bassheva. To receive the Hilchos Shabbos Initiative weekly Shabbos Halachos, email learnshabbos@gmail.com:


“The Mishna Berurah writes, ‘It is a mitzvah from the Torah to add on to the Shabbos at its beginning and at its end.” This is called ‘Tosefes Shabbos’. Why did Hashem bring the redemption from Mitzrayim after only 210 years, instead of the 400 that Hashem told Avraham? Chazal say they were redeemed earlier in the merit of Tosefes Shabbos. Why did that particular mitzvah bring the redemption quicker? The Yitav Lev explains: Hashem saw that the Jewish nation was keeping Shabbos beyond its exact times, so Hashem said, “I see that you are not being particular about time, therefore, I will also be flexible with time.” In this manner, the 400 years were decreased to 210. So too, if we add on to Shabbos, we can cause the arrival of Moshiach to happen sooner. Furthermore, we can be redeemed from all forms of difficulties and struggles sooner than they were ordained to end.” (As quoted from Rabbi Biderman – Torah Wellsprings)





A. We must always remember the tremendous zechus that the Avos bring us--as we have noted before, Chazal (Pesachim 87A) teach that Hashem told Hosheah that his Tefillah on behalf of Klal Yisrael should have been: “Banecha Heim B’nei Chanunecha Heim B’nei Avrohom, Yitzchak, V’Yaakov Galgel Rachamecha Aleihen--they are Your sons, the sons of Your loved ones, the sons of Avrohom, Yitzchak and Yaakov, heap Your mercy upon them!” Perhaps this Tefillah--a Tefillah suggested by Hashem Himself--should be kept on our lips. Asking for Hashem’s mercy should not be left to the Yomim Noraim--it is essential that we always plead for Hashem’s mercy--especially asking Him to remember the greatness from which we come!


B. In a related vein, the Sefer Tomer Devorah (1:12) teaches as follows: This is how a person should conduct himself. Even if he meets Jewish people who do not act properly, he should not behave cruelly towards them or abuse them. Rather, he should show them compassion, saying, “Ultimately, they are the children of Avrohom, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. Although they may not behave properly, their fathers were upright and worthy. One who despises the sons despises the fathers, too. I do not wish their fathers to be despised because of me!” Thus, one should not allow them to be disparaged or disgraced, and certainly not disparage them himself--but instead help them improve as much as he can.


C.  Hashem is referred to in this week’s Parasha as the Mogein of Avrohom (Bereishis 15:1).  The special concept of Mogein Avrohom has, of course, been included as the concluding words of the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei.  The Kuntres Avodas HaTefillah points out that Hashem is our Mogein as well in the zechus of His being the Mogein of Avrohom.  Chazal teach Becha Chosmin--we end the first Bracha only with Avrohom, although Hashem was also the Mogein of Yitzchak and the Mogein of Yaakov in their various confrontations with the world around them.  HaRav Shimon Shkop, Z’tl (whose Yahrzeit was yesterday), explains that the reason we end only with Avrohom is because at the end of days, Klal Yisrael will be much like in the time of Avrohom Avinu, where there was no Mesorah from generation to generation as there was in the time of Yitzchak Avinu and Yaakov Avinu.  Instead new Ba’alei Teshuva (including children who have strayed) will come back to Yiddishkeit and Hashem will protect us through the difficult periods of Chevlei Moshiach and the Milchemes Gog U’Magog.  Hakhel Note:  Accordingly, it very much behooves us to have Kavannah in the very timely words of Mogein Avrohom!


D.  Avrohom Avinu was taught that his descendants would be like the stars of the sky.  Rabbi Shimon Amsel, Shlita, points out that the analogy is very appropriate--as the stars above, just as Klal Yisrael, appear so small in this world--yet their actions make a great and real impact where it counts--in Shomayim! 


E.  The Mishna in Avos (5:4) teaches that Avrohom Avinu passed ten different tests.  Yet, in the previous Mishna which states the number of generations between Noach and Avrohom--our forefather is referred to only as Avrohom and not Avrohom Avinu.  The commentaries explain that the term Avinu relating to his tests teaches us that through Avrohom’s succeeding at the tests, he instilled within us, as his children, the makeup, character and nature that has been necessary for us to survive our tests throughout our history.  We were and are readily able to move from place to place, deal with foreign governments, sacrifice ourselves for our beliefs, and follow Hashem’s directives whether we understood them or not, because of what Avrohom Avinu has passed down to us.  Many people have genes for physical traits, we are blessed with spiritual genes which will bring us through eternity!


F.  A Talmid asked the Chofetz Chaim whether he should be Oleh to Eretz Yisrael, in light of the dangers presented by the Bnei Yishmael who resided there.  The Chofetz Chaim responded:  “The Torah HaKedosha refers to Yishmael with the following phrase from this week’s Parasha:  “VeHu Yiheyeh Perah Adam--and he shall be a wild man.”  The Torah is eternal--and if the Torah refers to Yishmael in the future tense (will be)--this means that he will remain this way forever.  Even if all of the civilized nations attempt to educate Yishmael and civilize him, the Torah teaches that this will not be possible, for he is not capable of being civilized.  Even if a descendant of Yishmael is educated and becomes a lawyer, for instance, then he will be an ‘orech din pereh adam’.  If he will become a professor, then he will be a ‘professor pereh adam’--for his inability to become civilized will remain with him forever.”  The Chofetz Chaim sighed, and exclaimed:  “Oy, who knows what this pereh adam will do to Am Yisrael at the end of days?!” The Chofetz Chaim then advised the student that this should not detract him from being Oleh to Eretz Yisrael--and gave him the following bracha:  “Aleh L’Shalom, V’Hashem Yatzliach Darkecha!” (Sefer Talelei Oros)


G. It is not because people are impatient, or that they have no time because they must go to work. The reason people stand at a bris, writes HaRav Yaakov Emden, Z’tl, in his Siddur, is because everyone (aside from the sandek) must stand for the sake of the Mitzvah. In fact, one who encounters others on the way to performing a Mitzvah (such as a bris) he continues, should accompany them four amos. Hakhel Note: Based upon the foregoing, it would be an interesting question when one sees the kvater walking the baby in for the milah, as to whether he should escort him for at least four amos!


H.  More on Davening at a Bris: HaRav Eliyahu Guttmacher, Z’tl, brings in his notes to the Gemara in Shabbos (130B) from the Sefer Olelos Ephraim that when a person who is not well is in attendance at a bris and davens for the baby, he should also have in mind the phrase “Chaneini Hashem Ki Umlal Ani” (Tehillim 6:3), asking Hashem to have mercy on him as well.  Indeed, anyone who has tzaros should be Mispallel when the child is crying from the pain of the Milah, for the child’s cries go up directly (without any disturbance).  About this the Pasuk (ibid.) writes “Shema Hashem Techinasi, Hashem Tefillasi Yikach--Hashem hear my supplication, Hashem take my Tefillah.”  HaRav Guttmacher concludes regarding this Tefilah at the Bris:  “VEHU EITZAH NIFLA’AH--this is a wondrous Eitzah.” (Sefer Talelei Oros)


Hakhel Note:  The Rema in his commentary to the Tur (Yoreh Dei’ah 265:4) writes that although he did not see it being practiced, if one concludes the words of the Pasuk that the Mohel had begun [Ashrei Tivchar U’Sekareiv Yishkon Chatzeirecha]--i.e., with the words, “Nisba’ah BeTuv Beisecha Kedosh Heichalecha--he is zoche to enter through heavenly spheres!



CONCLUDING THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST BRACHA OF SHEMONE ESREI: We conclude our review of the vital first bracha of Shemone Esrei--the bracha of Avos. This bracha is so essential that the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 101, seif katan 4) brings from the Chayei Adam that if one realized that he did not have kavannah for the meaning of the words in Birchas Avos, and he realizes this before he said Baruch Ata Hashem at the end of the bracha--he should return to the words “Elokei Avrohom “near the beginning of the bracha and start from there--this time with kavannah!  Additionally, if one completed the first bracha but did not yet begin the second bracha and realized that he had not been focused, the Chazon Ish and others rule that one should review the words of Birchas Avos in his mind with kavannah, and then begin the next bracha. This is how careful we have to be with these incredible 42 words!


Additional Note A:  The Yesod VeShoresh HaAvodah makes it a point to emphasize in this bracha that we should be careful to properly enunciate its words, and avoid the slightest slurs. For instance--it is ‘LeMa-an Shemo’ and not LeMa’an Shemo, and we should be careful to say ‘BeAhava’ and not BeAava....


Additional Note B: Rashi (Bereishis 12:2) teaches that important words in the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei correspond to Hashem’s words of bracha to Avrohom at the outset of the Parasha. The bracha of V’e’escha LeGoy Gadol (I will make you into a great nation) corresponds to Elokei Avrohom, Va’avarechecha (I will bless you) corresponds to Elokei Yitzchak, and VeAgadlah Shemecha (I will make your name great) corresponds to Elokei Ya’akov. In an audio-visual presentation that was shown on the life of HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, the point was made the HaRav Elyashiv would have special Kavannah when mentioning the Avos in the first bracha of Shemone Esrei. We should take this teaching to heart, and not gloss over our reference to each one of the Avos at the outset of the bracha. Perhaps we can even write into our Siddur the great three brachos mentioned above to which each of Elokei Avrohom, Elokei Yitzchak and Elokei Ya’akov refer. We can also think about the great Middos of the Avos to which we are scions--the Chesed of Avrohom and  the Gevurah of Yitzchak--which are brought so to the fore in this week’s Parasha (can we try to visualize it?)…and the Emes of Yaakov in the weeks to come!


Additional Note C:  The term “Kel Elyon” uniquely appears four times in this week’s Parasha (Bereishis 14:18-22)--and then reappears in our bracha of Avos.  While the basic translation of the term would be “Supreme G-d,” there seems to be something more underlying the phrase, as it is repeated several times after the Torah describes Avrohom Avinu’s war against the superpowers. The Avodas HaTomid, a commentary on Tefillah, writes that the phrase uniquely and especially describes that Hashem is the cause of everything-- comes from Him.  Rav Schwab, Z’tl, in his peirush on the siddur adds that we are to understand from “Kel Elyon” that Hashem’s knowledge is beyond that of any man.  He writes, therefore, that he advised people not to think about how something like the Holocaust could have happened because we simply cannot fathom Hashem’s supremacy over us.  Can one man defeat the four superpowers of the World?  Can a group of Kohanim quash the seemingly invincible Greek army?  More recently, could the Six-Day War or the Yom Kippur War...or more recent events.... make sense to the common man?  The term “Kel Elyon” is therefore placed in the Birchas Avos, for it is part of the legacy from our Avos, one of the foundations of our faith, which is immutable by time, place, or occurrence.  Let us not only recite but feel these words-- every time we recite the first Bracha of Shemone Esrei!



9 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT:  The treasured last request of the Avinu Malkeinu tefillah that we recited many times over the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, and which we recite on fast days, is Avinu Malkeinu Chaneinu V’Aneinu…Asei Imanu Tzedaka V’Chesed V’Hoshieinu. This beautiful, all-encompassing request is not limited to the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah and taneisim--in fact, we (at least, men) recite it every day in our regular Tefillos. We should not let this powerful and comprehensive request to be mere lip service--after all, it was the conclusion of Avinu Malkeinu at Neilah on Yom Kippur! One should most definitely make a special point of reciting it with feeling and zeal each and every day--twice a day!



FROM A READER: THE PITFALLS OF MATERIAL WEALTH:  The deleterious effect of an overabundance of material possessions can be illustrated by the following pasuk from this week’s Parasha, which contains an unusual word order:  “Vayikchu Es Lot V’es Rachusho Ben Achi Avram…--and they took Lot and his possessions, the son of Avram’s brother (Bereishis 14:12).”  Could it actually be that Avram’s blood relative was the material wealth of Lot, as the Pasuk appears to read?  Rabbi Daniel Glatstein, Shlita (Morah D’asra of Kehilas Ahavas Yisroel, Cedarhurst, and Maggid Shiur, Kollel Agra D’pirka, Kew Gardens Hills), quoting Rav Schwab, Z’tl, explains that Lot’s interest in his wealth actually interfered with his relationship with his uncle.  It caused his physical separation from Avram (Bereishis 13:11)--and moreover we see from the special wording in this posuk that Lot’s physical possessions actually stood between the two, as well.”



DO A GOOD JOB!  Tefillah is referred to by Chazal as Avodah SheBalev--the work of the heart. Likewise, in the Orchos Chaim L’Rosh (26), the Rosh refers to Tefillah as a Halacha Nichbedes--honored work. When one works honestly, and works hard, he does not slacken, let his mind wander, or try just to ‘get-by’--as these are never the keys to success--whether one owns his own business, or works for someone else. In the case of Tefillah, the diligent performance of one’s job will not only prove successful to the mispallel himself--but will overflow into all whom he is mispallel for--family, friends, K’lal Yisrael--and the world!



TRULY WAITING: Chazal teach that one of the six questions that a person is asked after 120 years is Tzipisah L’Yeshuah-- did you eagerly await Yeshuas Hashem?” Upon first reflection, we may ask--what does this question mean; after all, do not we talk about the redemption many times throughout our davening daily? It accordingly appears then that Tzipisah L’Yeshuah is at a minimum something more.


Before providing short answers, we very importantly note that there is a beautiful English Sefer Yearning with Fire, by Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita. This Sefer provides a full treatment of this essential question, the answer for which a person must be fully-prepared with. In terms of more immediate responses, we provide the following three thoughts by different Rabbanim to whom we posed the question:


1. The Sha’arei Teshuvah to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 118 brings the Mahari Tzemach who advises that in the bracha of Es Tzemach Dovid of Shemone Esrei--when reciting the words Ki Lishuasecha Kivinu, one should stop and actually have Kavannah that he is awaiting and yearning for the Yeshuah. Hakhel Note: HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl (in his Sefer Rinas Chaim on the Shemone Esrei), explains that it is not enough to simply recite the words. Ki Lishuasecha Kivinu, but one must ask for the Moshiach to come mei’omek halev--in a truly sincere and heartfelt way!


2. In the twelfth Ani Ma’amin, we recite that we believe in the coming of the Moshiach and that we await him every day. This means that just as we know that Hashem watches over our actions, our words, our thoughts each and every moment--we also must believe that Hashem has a plan--and that Hashem is leading us to Yeshuah. Our living is not day-to-day--it is with plan and purpose--a spiritual plan and purpose! This--we can (and should) think of many times during the day. This is Tzipisah L’Yeshuah….


3. One should take a step back--why are we awaiting the Moshiach? What is the hope, the yearning, the anticipation about? In the second paragraph of Aleinu--Ahl Kein Nekaveh (originally the Tefillah of Achan)--Chazal clearly set forth in detail for each and every one of us what we yearn for--what we have to look forward to. Accordingly, if one recites the Ahl Kein Nekaveh prayer phrase-by-phrase--he will be clearly demonstrating that he is awaiting and yearning--and what he is awaiting and yearning for! 



LEARNING TIME!  HaRav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Shlita, was meshameish his father in-law, HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, for more than 50 years. HaRav Elyashiv, of course, dealt with the most difficult Shailos in the world--pikuach nefesh, ishus, ribbis…. Yet, no matter how complex the Shailah, HaRav Elyashiv was able to answer each and every one of them known to Rav Zilberstein with clarity and preciseness…except one. That one question is brought by Rav Zilberstein in his introduction to the new Sefer U’Piryo Masok, as follows:  The policy of the Kaminetz Yeshiva in Yerushalayim is not to have a ‘Bein HaZemanim’ period--so that Isru Chag Sukkos would be the beginning (or continuation) of the z’man in the Yeshiva. One year, the hanhalah of the Yeshiva approached HaRav Elyashiv, and asked him if, because the bachurim had experienced such a tiring Simchas Torah, and were so busy taking down the Yeshiva’s Sukkah well into the night, they could give the bachurim off on Isru Chag and begin the next day--even though this had not been the minhag of the Yeshiva. HaRav Elyashiv put his head into his hand and thought for a few moments--and said: “Eineni Yodeiah Mah Le’hashiv--I don’t know what to answer.” They then asked him what they should do--who they should go to. He answered that they should go to HaRav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach, Z’tl. The hanhalah dutifully went to HaRav Auerbach. He also put his head into his hand and said that he did not know the answer and they should go to…HaRav Elyashiv! HaRav Zilberstein concludes that the tremendous lesson that he learned from this was how precious our learning time truly is…for it is time which can never be replaced, for eternity! 


Hakhel Suggestion: Chazal (Brachos 14A) teach that before going to sleep, one should study Torah, and also teach (Pesachim 117A) that if one wants to have good dreams he should go to sleep after having experienced a ‘simcha shel mitzvah’. Perhaps one can designate a five or ten minute specific Seder in a particular Sefer or study before going to bed--so that he culminates his waking hours and begins his sleeping hours in the greatest way possible…with precious time spent learning Torah!







A. The Ramban, the Chinuch and the Rashba all rule that Birchos HaTorah is M’D’Oraysa. One should recite the Birchos HaTorah B’Simcha Gedolah. When Chazal teach that K’lal Yisrael were exiled because they did not make the bracha on Torah before learning it, it means that learning Torah was not considered special in their eyes. Accordingly, one must be very careful to express appropriate thanks to Hashem when making the bracha for giving us Kli Chemdaso--His beloved treasure. Indeed, according to some, the bracha of Asher Bachar Banu is a Birkas Hoda’ah V’Shevach, and only the bracha of Asher Kedeshanu B’Mitzvosav V’Tzivanu La’asos is a Birchas Mitzvah. (Orach Chaim 47, Mishna Berurah seif katan 1 and 2, and Dirshu Note 8) Hakhel Note: Perhaps before reciting the bracha we can have in mind that the Torah is a Morasha to Kehillas Yaakov--what a great and invaluable thousands of years old heirloom I have received!


B. If one has children, when reciting the words V’Niheyeh Anachnu V’Tze’etzaeinu, he should have Kavannah that they be Lomdei Torah, Tzaddikim and Ba’alei Middos Tovos. He should have a similar Kavannah when reciting Ahava Rabba and in U’vah L’Tzion when saying the words LeMa’an Lo Niga Larik Velo Neileid Labehala. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 10)


C. Although women do not have the chiyuv to learn Torah in the same way as men, the Shulchan Aruch itself (ibid., 47:14) rules that women must recite Birchos HaTorah every day. The Bi’ur Halacha explains that this is because women are obligated to learn the Halachos that apply to them, and also because they must recite the Parashas HaKarbonos which are in the Torah.


D. HaRav Elyashiv, Z’tl, rules that if one travels on a plane at night and goes to sleep, it is considered as if he slept in bed, and he must recite Birchos HaTorah upon rising from his slumber. (ibid., Dirshu Note 25)


E. The Parashas HaTomid should in the first instance be recited before Pesukei D’Zimra. Additionally, it is preferable to recite the Parashas HaTomid in Shul because the Karbonos were brought in the Beis HaMikdash and our Shuls are our Mikdash Me’at. The Zohar brings that one who recites Karbanos in Shul with Kavannah attains the special benefit that Malochim who would otherwise seek his harm must do only good to him. (Siman 47, Dirshu Notes 1, 2 and 4)


F. One should recite the Parashas HaKetores daily--the Zohar writes that one is saved from devorim ra’im and more if one has Kavannah when reciting it. The Seder HaYom writes that the Parashas HaKetores that one recites should be written on a kosher k’laf and should be read B’Kavannah Gedolah. Reciting the Parashas HaKetores can have the effect of bringing the Ketores itself continues the Seder HaYom, and one who is careful to read it twice daily and to have Kavannah word for word causes Bracha V’Hatzlacha in all that he does, and Parnassah B’Revach. (ibid., Dirshu Note 3)


G. Although generally Pesukim may not be recited orally without reading them inside, those Pesukim with which all are familiar may be recited without reading them. The Teshuvas Chavos Ya’ir permitted all of Sefer Tehillim to be recited by-heart, for Tehillim is Me’orer Rachamei Hashem, and is considered like Tefillah. The Chasam Sofer adds that we see that Tehillim was made to be recited by heart, for the Levi’im sang various Kepitelech in the Beis HaMikdash and certainly did not do so from a Sefer. (Orach Chaim 49, Mishna Berurah seif katan 6 and Dirshu Note 4)



8 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: We suggest that there are certain activities which can never be acceptable, although the public at large may view them as commonplace or part of the way that ‘everyone’ acts. Among them: rolling one’s eyeballs at what another person says or does; twitching one’s nose or smirking when someone enters the room; making a sarcastic or stinging comment or retort; belching without first covering one’s mouth and sincerely saying ‘excuse me’; drinking from a bottle; and taking any other action for which a person of good bearing should feel embarrassed or would say excuse me. The world may forget--but not us--that we are a Tzelem Elokim--and always act accordingly!



THE TORAH JEW’S PARNASSAH: What was Avrohom Avinu’s profession?  From what did Yitzchak Avinu, Yaakov Avinu, and Moshe Rabbeinu earn a Parnassah?  The Torah certainly does not emphasize the answers to these questions, although we study and learn so much about the lives of the Avos, Moshe Rabbeinu and many other great Torah personalities throughout Tanach.  Indeed, one of the basic questions raised in the Mussar Seforim (Chovos HaLevavos/Derech Hashem/Mesilas Yesharim) is why one must do Hishtadlus at all to obtain Parnassah, with the knowledge that “A person does not stub his finger here below, without it being decreed by Hashem” (Chulin 7B), and with the further knowledge that:  “All of one’s Parnassah for the year is established on Rosh Hashana (except for certain additional expenditures that he makes for certain Mitzvos for which he is ‘reimbursed by Hashem)” (Beitzah 16A).  Succinctly stated:  What purpose does it serve for a person to spend hours at work or even work at all--as everything he receives, to the penny, is exactly designated by Hashem?  Going beyond the concept of work being based upon the curse to Adam of “Bezaiyas Apecha Tochal Lechem--by the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread” (Bereishis 3:19), HaRav Chaim Friedlander, Z’tl, culls together the following important reasons: 


A.  Hashem directs us to work in order to test the individual--to see how he will go about attaining his livelihood.  Will he be fully honest and Emunah-filled in his pursuit, or will he engage in questionable acts which approach the gray area of geneivah and gezeilah.  (Chovos HaLevavos, Sha’ar HaBitachon, Chapter 3)


B.  Working also provides a different kind of test--how tied into the Olam Hazeh workings  the individual will become, and, to the contrary, the extent to which he can on a day-to-day basis, live the fact that Olam Hazeh is truly only a means to the end--Olam Habah.  (Derech Hashem, 4,5,2)


C.  For a person who is not disciplined enough to learn or perform Mitzvos on a full-time (day and night) basis, he may come to sin through boredom and lack of something constructive to do.  Keeping one’s mind occupied with legitimate matters which relate to helping other people and to ‘building the world’ most certainly combat the Yetzer Hara’s attempts to entice a person to sin.  (Chovos HaLevavos, ibid.)


D.  Because of a human being’s ability to reason and his chashivus as the pinnacle of creation on earth, Hashem gives him the special dignity to exercise his intellect, rather than to accept everything as a gift without work.  (Derech Hashem, ibid.)


E.  It is an opportunity for a person to improve in his Tefillah, as one recognizes that whether he is hired or c’v fired, whether the gets a promotion or a raise in salary, whether he does a good job, or whether he makes a mistake, is all truly B’yad Hashem.  When one recognizes that his Hishtadlus merely allows him to be zoche to the Birkas Hashem through his Bitachon based Tefillah--when he realizes that his Hishtadlus is not the source of his Hatzlacha, but the Divinely-decreed requirement to attain it, then he is well on the road to successfully satisfying the Parnassah aspect of his Avodas Hashem.  In this regard, we once again provide the personal Tefillah for Parnassah that was composed by a reader, which he recites before he begins his daily work schedule http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/TefillahAlHaParnassahReader.pdf.  There are, of course, many more formal Tefillos regarding Parnassah which have been published.  We merely add that when one uses his own words, the sincerity is evident in his personal formulation. 


Hakhel Note:  Remember--Im Ain Kemach Ain Torah; Im Ain Torah Ain Kemach--Chazal teach that our daily Kemach is inextricably bound to--our Avodas Hashem! 



HALACHOS OF BIRCHOS HASHACHAR: The following notes are excerpted from the Mishna Berurah Hilchos Birchos Hashachar (Dirshu Edition):




A. The Shulchan Aruch writes that the reason we recite various parts of Karbanos in the morning is so that every day one will be sure to learn Mikra, Mishna and Gemara. The Mishna Berurah, however, notes that one is only credited with learning Mishna and Gemara if he understands what he is saying--otherwise it is not considered to be learning. There is a fascinating additional thought here. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Hilchos Talmud Torah2:13) writes that one should try to learn Mishna and Gemara even if he does not understand them, and L’Asid Lavohe will be able to understand that which he tried to understand here. The Chida adds that the attempt itself is considered Talmud Torah, and that if one understands the words but not the concept being conveyed, this also constitutes the Mitzvah of Torah study. The foregoing relates to Torah She’be’al Peh. With respect to Torah Shebichsav, even if one does not understand what he is reciting--as long as he realizes that he is reciting these words, the Shelah HaKadosh writes that he fulfills the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah. The Chida writes that this is true of the study of the Zohar as well--one should study even if he does not understand it, and it is “mesugal leha’ir es hanefesh-- enlighten the person’s soul!” (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 50:1, Mishna Berurah seif katan 2, and Dirshu Note 3)


B. Once one has commenced Boruch She’amar he cannot speak about other matters until after Tachanun. The prohibition to speak even makes it impermissible to recite the words “Boruch Hu U’Varuch Shemo” when someone else is reciting a bracha. It is permissible to recite “Amen” on any bracha that one hears, even if one is in the middle of a Pasuk in Pesukei D’Zimra, if it is at the end of a thought. It is also permissible to answer Modim D’Rabanan and to recite the first Pasuk of Kriyas Shema with the Tzibbur if they are then reciting it. One should also respond to Barchu and recite the Pesukim of Kedusha together with the Tzibur. One should not, however, answer “Amen” to Veyatzmach Purkanei, but should answer “Amen” to the rest of Kaddish.  It is also permissible to recite a Birchos Hoda’ah (such as a bracha on lighting and thunder), and Asher Yatzar in Pesukei D’Zimra. It is preferable to recite the Asher Yatzar at certain points which constitute “bein haperakim” (interim points) in Pesukei D’Zimra. (see SA OC 51:4 Mishna Berurah seif katan 8 and 9, Bi’ur Halacha d’h Tzarich and Dirshu Note 12) Hakhel Note: It would be a good idea to mark the Bein HaPerakim of Pesukei D’Zimra in your siddur.


Hakhel Note: To be clear, it is not the Mishna Berurah who rules that one would not answer “Amen” afterV’Yatzmach Purkanei. It is the ruling of the Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim 4:14). We add that the Igros Moshe also rules that one would not answer “Amen” while reciting Pesukei D’Zimra to the Yehei Shelama Rabba and Oseh Shalom Bimromav portions of Kaddish as well. Once again, the Mishna Berurah itself does not make these distinctions.


C. The main reason that we recite Ashrei daily is to recite the Pasuk of “Poseiach Es Yadecha U’Masbia Lechol Chai Ratzon”--this is a Shevach to Hashem and we should have Kavannah that He is Mashgiach Ahl Briyosav U’Mefarnisan--that Hashem watches over His creations and sustains them. The Magein Avrohom brings from the Rabbeinu Bachya that when reciting these words one should think about the Nifla’os Hashem, Hashem’s greatness and His chesed towards us. This will keep a person distant from sin, and bring him great zechusim! If one realizes that he did not have Kavannah in reciting the Pasuk Poseiach Es Yadecha he should begin again fromPoseiach Es Yadecha until the end of the Kepitel. If one realizes that he did not have Kavannah when he is well beyond that spot and does not have the opportunity to return, he should at least recite from Poseiach Es Yadechauntil the end of the Kepitel after davening. (SA OC 51:6 Mishna Berurah seif katan 15 and 16 and Dirshu Note 18)


D. The Arizal would give Tzedaka in a standing position when reciting the words V’Ata Moshel Bakol (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 19).


E. The ikar of Pesukei D’Zimra is from Ashrei through Kol HaNeshama Tehalel Kah. (SA OC 52 Mishna Berurah seif katan 4)


F. If a woman is davening in Shul with the tzibbur but comes late, there is a machlokes haposkim as to whether she should skip in order to begin Shemone Esrei with the tzibur or not. The concept of skipping in order to begin Shemone Esrei with the tzibur is not lechatechila at all--as a man must come to Shul on time so that he does not need to skip. The Maggid (the malach) who learned with the Beis Yosef taught him that one must be careful not to skip in order to ‘catch-up’ because when doing so he overturns the tzinoros--the channels--through which our Tefillah travels. If it happens that one did come late, then there is a specific order of priority. There is a machlokes haposkim as to whether one must make-up that which he skipped after davening. (ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 1-3, and Dirshu Note 3)



7 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT: The Sefer Sifsei Chaim (Middos V’Avodas Hashem, Vol. II, p. 262) brings a remarkable teaching from the Alter of Kelm, Zt’l:  “When one is in doubt as to what he is to do, and does not know what is the eitzah of the Yetzer Hara and what is the eitzah of the Yetzer Hatov, he should know that the first thought that comes into his mind is that of the Yetzer Hara.  Chazal teach that “hedyot kofetz b’rosh--the foolish person jumps at the beginning”--without thought.  Accordingly, a person should not take action based upon his initial thought, but instead look further into the matter with follow-up thoughts--for the follow-up thoughts and the weighing of ideas come from the Yetzer HaTov within him.”  With this in mind, explains HaRav Friedlander, we can understand why the absolutely first teaching(!) in Pirkei Avos (1:1) is “Hevu Mesunim BaDin--be deliberate in judgment.”  This is not merely an enjoinder to judges--but an actual, practical and essential guideline of life--to all! 



A TIME TO SPEAK UP: The Chofetz Chaim severely criticizes those who poke fun at, ridicule or even undermine their Rav’s drasha in Shul. Indeed, Rabbi Aharon Kahn,Shlita points out that even looking into a sefer or reading a parasha newsletter while one’s Rav is speaking is a form of Lashon Hora--for one makes it appear as if it is not worth listening to (even if one is listening ‘with one ear’, and even if one could repeat the gist of the drasha).  Based upon the Chofetz Chaim’s words, we can surmise that the converse is also true. If one repeats to others what his Rav has said--or continues to discuss its meaning and ramifications after Shul--he is demonstrating Kavod HaTorah, and assisting the Rav to better assert his guidance and authority with the Kehilla. Mitzvah Goreres Mitzvah!



A PIECE OF CAKE--OR A COOKIE? If one intends to eat both a piece of cake and a cookie--which of the two should he make a Borei Minei Mezonos on? All things being equal, the Mishna Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 168, seif katan 1) writes that it is a Hidur Mitzvah to make the bracha on the shaleim (the Mishna Berurah’s ruling there is with respect to different bread items).



UNSCRAMBLE THE FOLLOWING WORD:  Mikreh (Mem-Kuf-Resh-Heyh)--which is commonly translated as ‘happenstance’, ‘by chance’, ‘coincidentally’, or ‘as it happened’.  HaRav Yaakov Galinsky, Z’tl, teaches that if we unscramble the word--what it really spells is Rak MaiHashem (Resh-Kuf-Mem-Heyh)--it is all only from Hashem!  Hakhel Note:  In this regard, we provide the following quotation from the Sefer Chovos HaLevavos, Sha’ar HaBitachon, Chapter 3 (translation from the Feldheim Edition--Duties of the Heart, Vol. I, p. 375):  “No one can benefit or hurt either himself or anyone else except with the permission of the Creator, may He be exalted. For if a servant has more than one master, and each of them is able to help him, it is impossible that he should come to rely exclusively on anyone of them, because he expects help from each of them. If one of his masters is able to help him more than the others, his reliance upon the former will be greater, in proportion to that person’s power, though he will also rely on the others. If only one of them can benefit or harm him, he must necessarily place his trust exclusively in that person, since he does not expect help from anyone else.  So too, if a person realizes that not one of the created things can help him or harm him, except with the permission of the Creator, may He be exalted, he will turn his heart away from fear of them or hope in them, and will trust in the Creator alone, as it says: “Trust not in rulers, in a human being, in whom there is no deliverance…[praiseworthy is one…whose hope is in Hashem, his G-d]” (Tehillim 146:3,5).”  Hakhel Note:  Let us unscramble what the world has scrambled--and live our lives with the absolute truth--Bitachon in Hashem in everything!



REFOCUS ON THE FIRST BRACHA!  In honor of our new encounters with Avrohom Avinu beginning in this week’s Parasha, we should focus anew on the first bracha of Shemone Esrei--known as Birchas Avos.  The Aruch HaShulchan (Orach Chaim 112:2) writes that this bracha actually originated when Avrohom Avinu was saved from the fiery furnace of Ur Kasdim--and was actually then recited by the Malachei HaShareis!  The Aruch HaShulchan also brings from the Tur (Orach Chaim 113) that the exact number of words of this bracha is 42 (obviously corresponding to the 42-letter name of Hashem referred to in Kiddushin 71A--which is also strongly alluded to in the 42 words of the “Anah BeChoach” Tefillah recited near the culmination of Karbanos and immediately before greeting Shabbos at Lecha Dodi--in fact, this allusion to the name of Hashem may be the reason that Ana BeChoach concludes with Baruch Shem Kevod).  Let us focus--42 words corresponding to the 42 letters--we must appreciate the weightiness of each word, for if one letter is missing, the name is not fully complete!


Several other important points about the first [the ‘Av’] bracha of Shemone Esrei:


1.  Why do we bow down as we begin Shemone Esrei?  The Anaf Yosef cites the following cogent explanations:  (a) the bowing reminds us before Whom we stand; (b) our looking down serves as a reminder as to where a person goes after 120 years; and (c) lowering the body alludes to your goal to bring the brachos from the heavens above down to the world below.


2.  This bracha begins with the customary words of Baruch Atta Hashem Elokeinu but then seems to be “missing” the important reference to Malchus--that Hashem is Melech HaOlam--Ruler of the World.  After all, did not Avrohom Avinu publicize Hashem’s rulership over the world to everybody? Why is it not here?  Your thoughts are welcome.


3.  Hashem is referred to in this bracha as “Elokei Yaakov.”  However, once Hashem Himself changed Yaakov’s name to Yisrael (Bereishis 35:10 and Rashi there)--and we ourselves are referred to as the B’nai Yisrael and K’lal Yisrael--why does not the bracha also refer to Hashem as Elokei Yisrael?  Your thoughts are welcome.


4.  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, was asked why the words “Gomel Chasodim Tovim” are not, so to speak, redundant--after all, is there a Chesed which is not Tov--which is not good?  He responded that there, in fact, is, for a chesed could result in something good for one person, but have a detrimental effect on someone else.  Only Hashem can micromanage the billions of factors necessary for a chesed to be 100% good --when necessary--for each and every one of His creations!


5.  What does the term “Zocher Chasdei Avos” mean--what Chesed is Hashem remembering--is it: (a) the Chesed that Hashem promised that He would do for the Avos and their children--or, (b) to the contrary, is He remembering the “Chesed” not that He performed, but that our Avos performed in making Hashem’s Name [see the reference to 42 letter name of Hashem within the bracha mentioned earlier] known in the world, or (c) perhaps are we simply referring to the great acts of Chesed performed by our Avos to other people in the world--all of which accrues to the merit of their descendants for 2,000 generations (Shemos 34:7--Notzer Chesed La’alaphim is one of the 13 Middos of Hashem).  HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita, holds that it is referring to Zechus Avos (see Tosfos to Shabbos 55A).  The Meshech Chochma writes that it refers to the Chesed that Hashem did to the Avos--and our awareness that for this reason He will do Chesed to their children, as well.  From this simple phrase, we can see how multi-faceted, how broad and penetrating, these holy words are--and how careful we must be in their recitation!


6. A reader had once written us: “I get tremendous chizuk every day when, in the first bracha of Shemone Esrei, I recite the words ‘LeMa’an Shemo B’Ahava--that Hashem will redeem us for the sake of His name with love.” As a parent, I know that I do things for my children even when they are undeserving. I do it out of love. This means that Hashem can redeem us even though we are undeserving--at any moment! I love the word B’Ahava!”



6 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT! Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, teaches in Koheles (2:12) that HeChochom Einav B’Rosho--the wise man’s eyes are in his head. The Meforshim explain that a wise man thinks about the consequences of his proposed actions--and acts accordingly.


Hakhel Note: Let us learn what wisdom is from the wisest!



QUESTION OF THE WEEK:  Who is the first person in the Torah to say the words “Baruch Hashem”? Hint: It is not in this week’s Parasha!



CARRY IT WITH YOU! In this week’s Parasha, Avrohom Avinu is commanded in the Mitzvah of Bris Milah. It is an Eis Ratzon to daven at the time that the baby cries and B’EH all of the cries go up to Shomayim together. Accordingly, for those who do not have them, we once again provide by the following link http://www.hakhel.info/archivesPublicService/BrisTefillos.pdf  two printed Tefillos that have been distributed relating to a bris. In addition, one should recite the Chapter of Tehillim which mentions the word Sheminis in it. Some say this is Tehillim Chapter 6, and others Tehillim Chapter 12. If you can--perhaps say both!



COMMENCEMENT OF YESHUOS!  The Imrei Pinchas writes that: “...until Parashas Lech Lecha when we learn of Avrohom Avinu and his deeds, the world is in a state of confusion and disturbance.  With Parashas Lech Lecha, the chesed of Avrohom Avinu is aroused, and Yeshuos begin to occur....”  May we experience and see them all around us!





1. Is the Yahrzeit of HaRav Meir Shapiro, Z’tl, R’ Yehuda Meir ben R’Yaakov Shimshon.  We therefore once again urge everyone--especially those who are currently studying (or have studied), or who are in any way benefiting from Daf Yom study.  We urge you to do any or all of the following on his Yahrzeit l’ilui nishmaso:  Learn Torah—especially Mishnayos;  Give Tikun; Dedicate your Daf Yomi Shiur or Daf Yomi study, and/or review the Daf one extra time, in his memory.


2. Is the Yahrzeit of R’ Yosef Rosenberger, Z’tl, R’ Yosef ben R’ Moshe Halevi-the founder of the Shatnez labs in the United States. He spread the mitzvah of checking for Shatnez in America. Because he spent so much promoting this Mitzvah, he gave up of his learning time, and he specifically asked that people learn Mishnayos as a zechus for him.





 Everything that happens is from Hashem, 

and has its reason.

Our job is to turn

what seems like a mess,

into His message.



BECHOL MAKOM: Chazal (Avos 3:7) teach that when one person sits and engages in Torah study, the Shechinah will rest upon him, as the Pasuk states: “Bechol Makom Asher Azkir Es Shemi Avo Eilecha U’veirachticha--in every place in which I cause My name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you.” (Shemos 20:21). When one is studying Torah he should appreciate and revel in the fact that the Shechinah itself especially rests upon him in this zechus alone!


Hakhel Note One: HaRav Yitzchok Zilberstein, Shlita writes in his Sefer VeHa’arev Na that people describe the test one had to pass in order to be able to enter the Vilna Gaon’s shiur. The G’ra would ask the applicant which Daf he knew best in all of Shas--which Daf had he learned tens or even hundreds of times.  When the applicant answered with a Mesechta and Daf number, the G’ra then asked him to sit in the Bais Medrash and study that very Daf again. The G’ra would then observe the potential student as he studied this Daf that he knew better than any Daf in Shas--to see whether his study was with Mesikus--with sweetness and desire as if he was studying it for the first time--he would be admitted to the Shiur.  If, however, it was studied as if one had already studied it without that real first-time enthusiasm--than the Gra’s Shiur would not be his place.


Hakhel Note Two:  The Mattersdorfer Rav, Z’tl relates in the name of the Chasam Sofer that the Torah is a goldmine.  Only those who know how to mine will be able to get out the gold.  It takes time, effort and a special love, dedication and desire to learn the skill--but there is no greater gold at the other end!



ESSENTIAL TO KNOW AND SHARE:  At the outset of this week’s Parasha, Hashem advises Avrohom Avinu:  “Va’avarecha Mevorechecha (Bereishis 12:3)--and I will bless those who bless you.”  Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita in Love Your Neighbor (p.44) explains: “When the Torah states that Hashem will bless “those who bless you” it refers not only to someone who blesses Avraham, but also to one who blesses a descendant of Avraham (Chulin 49A and Tosfos there). Accordingly, Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein  [teaches that] when you bless another person, you merely offer a few words, in return for which Hashem gives you bountiful blessings.  Remember-when you greet a fellow Jew with a cheery “Good Morning” or “Good Night” you are blessing him, and you will be blessed. Don’t merely mumble the words. Be sincere and keep in mind that in essence you are saying, “I pray that you have  a good morning!”


Hakhel Note:  May the beautiful brachos flow--in all ways and in all directions!



HOW DO YOU EAT? As we move further away from the Yomim Noraim, and perhaps treat ourselves in a less restrictive manner, we should be vigilant over how we conduct ourselves when eating--the way our brachos are recited, our manner of eating--and our manners! Remember-Shivisi Hashem L’Negdi Somid applies at the kitchen or dining room table as well!



ADDITIONALLY--MORE THAN JUST THANK YOU!  A Rav pointed out to us that when one expresses his Hakaras HaTov to another by saying “Yasher Kochachem”--then he is not just saying “thank you”--but also giving an appreciative bracha to the one who has just acted kindly towards him.  They may both be just two words--but there is a great difference between them.  Of course, using both phrases “Todah Raba/thank you” and “Yasher Kochachem” could really be most appropriate under the circumstances. 



BRACHOS FOR ADDITIONAL NEEDS:  One may be required to take care of his bodily needs more often in connection with preparation for a medical examination such as a colonoscopy, so that his body can be examined totally clear of waste. If one knows that after taking medically prescribed laxatives he will have to take care of his needs several times in the coming hours, should he nevertheless recite Asher Yatzar after each occurrence?  We posed the question to Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner, Shlita, author of Halachos of Brachos, who advised that although there is another view, we follow the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 7, seif katan 2), who writes that, unless one feels that he will need to take care of his needs immediately again, the minhag is to follow the opinion that one should recite a bracha after each occurrence. Since there is a minhag to do so, we do not invoke the rule of sofek brochos l’hakel (Birkei Yosef).



GREAT WORDS! From Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita: “Once Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, head of Ponevezh Yeshivah in the city of Ponevezh and later in Bnei Brak, went on a fund-raising trip for his Yeshivah to South Africa, and afterward, paid a visit to the Chofetz Chaim in Radin. Someone present at the visit, was curious about the Chofetz Chaim’s unusual interest in the primitive tribes. The Chofetz Chaim explained, “Not long from now, everyone in the world will sing songs of praise to our Father, our King. So I wanted to know more about the different groups that will extol Hashem’s praises.”

 “I met a person who would react with a big smile, whenever he heard someone mention the size of the world’s population: He would say, “Imagine a seven-billion member choir. Each: individual will sing new songs of praise to Hashem, and they will do this daily. It gives me joy right now, just thinking about this.”



3 Marcheshvan

TESHUVAH MOMENT:   As seen in this week’s Haftarah, the floodwaters described in this week’s Parasha are sometimes called “Mei Noach--the waters of Noach”.  In some sense, Noach was held accountable for not bringing his generation with him to Teshuva, and so the punishing waters are titled with his name. In order to better understand this concept, we provide the following Mashal adapted from the Chovos HaLevavos (Shaar Ahavas Hashem, Chapter 6), which is brought by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita (“Love Your Neighbor”, p. 34):


“Two businessmen come to a particular fair at the same time.  One has merchandise which cost him $10, marks it up 10 times, and sells it for $100.  He makes $90 clear profit!  The second businessman has merchandise which cost him $5,000.  He marks it up only two times, and sells it for $10, 000, leaving him with a profit of $5,000.  Although the second businessman’s percentage of profit was 8 times less than that of the first, he earned $5,000.00, as opposed to $90.”


This parable illustrates that if someone’s improvement of only himself will pale in comparison to the one who improves himself and others, for his merits are increased by the merits of everyone else that he has improved.  We should try to make an effort to help someone else (even a family member) with a Halacha or Torah thought to benefit from everyday--let the new merchandise continue to flow in!





A. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 262:3) writes VeYismach BeVias Shabbos KeYotzeh Likras HaMelech U’KeYo Likras Chosson VeKallah--let us truly appreciate the happiness anew--each and every Erev Shabbos!


B.  This Shabbos we have the special opportunity of reciting one of the zemiros which emanate from the Parasha. “Yom Shabboson Ain Lishkoach”--which contains the words Yonah Matzah Vo Manoach…and concludes with the words “Ka’asher Nishbata Al Mai Noach”. There are three explanations for the term yonah in this zimra. One is that it refers to the Shechina. A second is that it refers to K’lal Yisrael--but a third is that it very much refers to the yonah in this week’s Parasha. Indeed, the outstanding Mesivta Zemiros brings from the Pardes Yosef that the yonah from Noach’s teivah could only find a place to rest in Gan Eden, and that it happened on Shabbos! Hakhel Note: The depths of our Shabbos zemiros is truly brought to the fore by the Mesivta Zemiros. One can take just one zimra a week and study it a bit more on Shabbos to understand how significant and meaningful it truly is!


C.        Points and pointers on Hadlakas Neiros:


1.  A woman has priority over a man in lighting Shabbos candles, as they are more involved in a home’s needs, and an essential reason for Hadlakas Neiros is Shalom Bayis--a feeling of serenity in the home which the women is eminently capable of.  Additionally, as we learn in last week’s Parasha, woman caused man to eat from the Eitz HaDa’as, resulting in man’s light being extinguished (death was introduced into the world), and so the lighting of candles is a form of takana and kapara for women.


2.  The Mishna in Shabbos (2:6) teaches that a woman may, r’l, pass away in childbirth because of a failure to be careful with Hadlakas Neiros.  The Rashash to this Mishne explains that simply failing to light Shabbos candles would not engender something as serious as the death penalty.  Rather, the Mishne is referring to someone who is not careful to light on time--which can/will (chas veshalom) result in Chillul Shabbos--for which the penalty is Misah, death. Hakhel Note: Shabbos Candlelighting times listed on calendars, magnets and the like should not be viewed  merely as goals to strive for, or with the attitude of “I really have another fifteen minutes”--but should be taken seriously and stringently--staying far, far away from any danger zone--a time period in which one is literally playing with fire.  The zemanim are there for a reason--to avoid Chillul Shabbos, and to fulfill the Mitzvas Aseh of Tosefes Shabbos--adding on to the Kedusha of the Shabbos.  Indeed, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (75:6) writes that one should light in weekday clothes if necessary in order to avoid getting involved in a ‘Sofek Chillul Shabbos’, and that if a husband sees that his wife will be lighting in a Sofek Chillul Shabbos time--he should light himself instead and not be concerned with her anger!  The Mishne Berurah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 262, seif katan 11) adds that it is a ‘Mitzvah Gedolah’ to sit in the dark rather than chas veshalom come to Chillul Shabbos.  Let us take special note of these words as we approach the shorter Erev Shabbos days of the winter months (in the Northern Hemisphere).


3.  When lighting candles, one should not move his/her hand away from the wick until most of the wick has been lit, so that the flame will be burning well--this is the way the Menorah was lit in the Bais HaMikdash, and the way we are to light Neiros Chanukah as well (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 264:8, and Mishne Berurah there).


4.  What should one do if it appears that a candle is going to fall on the table?  See ibid., 265, Mishne Berurah, seif katan 16--and perhaps ask your Rav for a shiur on the topic!  Hakhel Note:  To obtain a copy of a Hakhel Shiur given by Rabbi Shlomo Pearl, Z’tl on “Emergency Situations on Shabbos”, please call 718-252-5274.


5.  The Neiros must be long enough to burn into the night (so that one has actual benefit from the candlelight-otherwise there is a bracha levatala issue) and continue burning through the end of the meal (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 75:2).


6.  ‘The Radiance of Shabbos’ by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, Shlita (Artscroll) devotes several important chapters to Hadlakas Neiros.  Rabbi Cohen brings from the Zohar that one should be sure to light the Neiros Shabbos with great joy


7.  Those who are zealous with the Mitzvah of Hadlakas Neiros will merit to greet the Divine Presence (Shabbos 32A)--what an accomplishment--for a little bit of zealousness!





A.  The Mabul described in tomorrow’s Parasha is sometimes referred to as the “Mai Noach”--the flood waters of Noach.  We could understand that the Teivah would be known as Noach’s Ark, but why would the flood waters be known by Noach’s name?  Shouldn’t it instead be attributed to the sinful people at that time?  After all--the flood was their fault-not Noach’s!  The Maharsha explains that Noach is, in a sense, held responsible for the flood because he did not do everything in his power to save his generation.  Obviously, he did a lot--building a Teivah for all those years, and undoubtedly subjecting himself to ridicule, intimidation and threats.   The conclusion:  Sometimes we don’t realize that we can really--and should--do more.  Practical Suggestion: When it comes to the health, safety, and welfare of others, we should try to do something more than we think that we are capable of.  In fact, this was the path of Avrohom Avinu who was ill and elderly, yet searched outside in a heat wave in order to help others--and to teach those of us in future generations how to behave!


B.  If the three great sins of the generation of the flood were Avoda Zarah, Gilui Arayos and Gezel--why would the seemingly least heinous of the three--Gezel--be the decisive factor to Hashem in bringing the flood?  Many have provided important insights here.  A particularly practical lesson is that the victim of Gezel will cry out--and, as the Torah records elsewhere:  “...it will be when they cry out to Me, I will surely listen to the cries.”  Something to avoid at all costs is someone (even if a parent, spouse or child) who has a ta’anah against you--someone who will cry out or complain--for even if your fault pales in significance to other, ostensibly more serious aveiros, Hashem takes into special account the hurt and cries of others-- just as you would expect Him, as your Father in Heaven, to take your hurt and cries into account as well.  Hashem will deal with the inanity of idol worship as He sees fit--but will not allow the pain of others to go unanswered.  This lesson is so important--that it is taught even before we get to the Avos!


C.  The Chofetz Chaim points to the oreiv being unable to serve as the shaliach on Noach’s mission--and being replaced by the Yonah instead.  Not everyone is capable of, or right for, a particular job, and not always should one send a shaliach if the job is best left done by himself.  The next time one asks someone to do something for him or sends someone on a mission, he should think about whether the decision not to do it by himself is really warranted (is it laziness?), and whether the other person is the right person for the job (will they be embarrassed, will someone else possibly suffer, is there someone else who should be doing it but for an ulterior motive…).  Most certainly when it comes to Mitzvos, a halachic principle that must be considered is Mitzva Bo Yosair MiBeShelucho--it is better for YOU to do the Mitzvah then ‘be mezakeh’--find someone else--to do it. It is said about the Steipeler that he did not ask anyone (even his children) to do anything for him unless he could not do it himself--we may not be on this madreiga, but perhaps we can at least consider it in our decision-making process!


D.  After Noach leaves the Teivah, the Posuk records “Vayevareich Elokim Es Noach…--Hashem blessed Noach and his children” (Bereishis 9:1).  Promptly thereafter, the Posuk records that Noach began his activities after the Mabul by planting a vineyard.  The bracha that he had just received was thus chal, first-placed, on a vine--leading him to become drunk.  Oh!  If only Noach had taken the bracha and used his first opportunity in a great way for the world’s (or at least his own) benefit--how much better off he and the world would have been!  We can take great note of this in our everyday lives.  When receiving a bracha from someone--we should not let it go by without immediately letting it be chal--rest upon--something important.  For example, after the bracha--open a Sefer and learn, try to make a Shidduch, or try performing a Mitzvah you have had particular Nisyonos within the past--and hope that the bracha will elevate and uplift you to a new and greater height!  (HaRav Itzele Volozhiner, Z’tl).



CONVENIENCE? As we proceed through the day--we see Mitzvah opportunities presented to us constantly. Most of us will not let the opportunity pass--recognizing the Hashgacha Pratis and its performance an everlasting ‘added value’ to oneself and to the world. There is, however, the more advanced question: How will the Mitzvah be performed--in a manner which is most convenient to the performer, or in a way especially intended to give Nachas Ruach to Hashem. We may term this ‘Qualitative Mitzvah Performance’--a part and parcel of our Best Behavior so very much called for in our times.


Hakhel Note:  HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita (Mattisyahu Chaim Ben Ettel L’Refuah Sheleimah) teaches that from the Pasuk Yehi Chevod Hashem L’Olam Yismach Hashem B’Ma’asav which we recite daily (Tehillim 104:31)--we learn that the way you can tell you have given Kavod to Hashem--is by acting in a way in which Hashem will be happy with your actions!



THE POWER OF OUR PRAYERS: HaRav Shimshon Dovid Pincus, Z’tl, highlights just how powerful our prayers are.  In Pesukei DeZimra daily, we recite Tehillim Chapter 148, in which we exclaim “Hallelu Es Hashem Min HaShomayim...Praise Hashem from the Heavens, Praise Hashem all His  angels, Praise Hashem sun and moon, and all bright stars, Praise Hashem, the most exalted of heavens and the waters that are above the heavens....”  Think for a moment of what we are doing--we are actually ordering the heavens, the angels, the sun and stars all to praise Hashem!  We, mere ‘sons of man’, are actually empowered to tell these awesome and incomprehensible creations what to do!  Look at and appreciate the control and influence we wield with our prayers--and especially feel the joy and potential and clout of your tefillos when reciting this Kepitel as an extremely important preface to Birchos Kriyas Shema and Shemone Esrei!


Hakhel Note: The Mishna Berura (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 101, seif katan 1) urges everyone to at least regularly have Kavanna in the chasima of each bracha of Shemone Esrei (i.e., Baruch Atta Hashem…).  The remarkable Dirshu Edition notes to the Mishna Berura write that the source of his words are the Tur (ibid.). The Tur writes that if one adds up the number of words in the chasimos of the brachos of Shemone Esrei, he will count 113 words--which is the number of words in the Tefillas Chana, and which is also the number of times that the word Lev appears in the Torah.  The Bach adds that the chasima of every bracha--even of the middle brachos of bakasha--are all shevach, i.e., that Hashem is the Chonen Da’as, is the Go’el Yisrael, is the Rofeh Cholei Amo Yisrael--and it is better to have Kavannah in praising Hashem than in making requests of Hashem.



V’CHAI BAHEM! The Torah teaches (Vayikrah 18:5):  “U’Shemartem Es Chukosai V’Es Mishpatai Asher Ya’aseh Osam Ha’adam V’Chai Bahem--You shall observe My Chukos and laws which man shall carry out and by which he shall live.”  The Chofetz Chaim importantly notes that the Torah does not state V’Chai Avuram--you shall live to perform them, but rather V’Chai Bahem--which means that you will live in Olam HaBah through them.  Accordingly, just as a person would do all that he can in order to keep his arms, ears, legs healthy and in good working order in this world, so too should a person realize that his connection to eternal life is through the Mitzvos, and that the more wholesomely and completely the Mitzvos are performed, the more wholesome and complete will be one’s Chiyus, one’s life in Olam HaBa. This should provide us with an extra-special drive to rid ourselves of at least one Mitzvas Anashim Melumadah--Mitzvah done-by-rote, that we perform daily, and replace it with a sincere and inspired performance of that Mitzvah.  Examples:  In Tefillah--one place to start may be in one’s recitation of Pesukei D’Zimrah. In Torah--in the way one listens and interacts in a shiur he otherwise listens to or attends.  In Chesed--in attempting to perform at least one Chesed a day which has not been asked for, and is not expected. 



KEEP IT IN MIND!  We all know that Hashem established this world on a Middah K’neged Middah basis--and indeed this is one of the most basic rules of how this world operates. At first glance, it may appear curious then, that the punishment for Lashon Hora is tzora’as --leprosy, a punishment which could effect up to the entire exterior body or any part thereof--but with the mouth itself apparently unaffected! What happened to Middah K’neged Middah here? The answer is obvious--but nevertheless startling.  Because a human being is distinguished by his being a Ruach Memalelah--a thinking, speaking being--if he does not properly display that distinction and is careless (not being careful enough in this context is careless) with this power--then he has adversely effected his ENTIRE BEING--and this is why he receives a warning and punishment which effects his whole body. So explains the Chofetz Chaim. The Chofetz Chaim adds that even if in our day when tzora’as is not visible on our physical bodies--it nevertheless can still be inflicted on our souls--and without the proper Teshuva, this tzora’as will be self-evident in Olam Haba--as a world which is only soul without body. Nobody, but nobody would want that--especially when one can then enjoy the eternal blissful results of positive and pleasant speech.  In doubt as to whether you can say something and how to say it? The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Shemiras Halashon Shaila Hotline is the free service that you should keep at your fingertips:718-951-3696, 9pm to 10:30pm New York City time. It is the thought--and the speech--that counts!



THE REMEDY: A senior Rav provided the following extremely practical teaching:


Our natural tendency is one of self-centeredness.  When someone shows you an old class picture--what is the first thing that you look for--most likely, if you are in the picture, and how you look. 


Because of this tendency, we also tend to look at the good that we do, and we lean towards finding fault with the words and actions of others, and not with our own.  We must take some action to look more favorably upon others--viewing them with the same good eye that we view ourselves.  It sounds easier than it is-- but nevertheless can, in fact, be accomplished in a practical and goal-oriented way.


Here is a plan.


Every day, six days a week, write down two things that you saw someone else do that day that was really nice, really thoughtful, admirable, or the like. You don’t even have to know the person-- a courteous driver, a helpful store worker, a family member who acceded to your request, someone davening with fervor, someone who didn’t get angry when you expected it.... Write the two acts down every day--and review all of them every Shabbos. At the end of the month you will have about 50 actions in which you saw the good in others, and after two months--about 100.  Share your experiences with others (maybe they can join you in this goal).  You will develop a more considerate, see-the good in others, and care-for-others person.


What a warm and special goal as we proceed into the heart of the New Year!



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